Education Partnership North East, which includes Sunderland College, Hartlepool Sixth Form and Northumberland College, has extended its range of free distance learning courses to support employers across the North East through the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

The college group has further developed its range of high-quality distance learning courses in order to boost businesses at a key time, with practical implementable skills that are essential to become a resilient and thriving organisation in the future.

Education Partnership North East has been proactive in developing distance learning courses to specifically support the needs of the local business community in order to help them recover from the challenges of COVID-19.

Businesses can get ready for re-opening with courses such as crisis management, infection control and risk assessment. Courses for essential skills for their workforce include health and safety and equality and diversity. Qualifications to enhance the digital skills of employees include collaborative technologies, and for implementing efficient business processes, employers can choose from courses in lean management or business improvement techniques.

Ellen Thinnesen, Chief Executive of Education Partnership North East, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way that people learn, and as one of the largest college groups in the country, we have quickly adapted.

“We have an important role to play in helping the business community to recover from the effects of COVID-19 and we are delighted that our distance learning offer is further supporting us to lead the way in upskilling employees, supporting economic growth during this challenging time and offering relevant and structured training for free at a time when training budget are under immense pressure.”

Employees, who are aged 24 and over, can access free distance learning courses and gain essential work-based skills to support their company and their own career ambitions.

During the current pandemic, distance learning allows individuals to study nationally-recognised qualifications safely from their own home. The distance learning courses take from 3 hours to 16 weeks to complete and studying can be fit around professional responsibilities, or while on furlough, with minimal disruption to the workplace.

Sharon Appleby, Head of Business Operations for Sunderland Business Improvement District (BID), said: “The distance learning courses provided by Education Partnership North East are a brilliant opportunity to upskill staff and make sure businesses are ready for what the future holds. Things are changing so quickly, and the opportunity to gain new knowledge and skills via distance learning could help to transform businesses and ensure their future is secure.”

For more information on distance learning courses visit If you are an employer and would like your workforce to benefit from tailored distance learning courses, contact

Why Education Partnership North East (EPNE)?

Highly commended - Employer of the Year, Sunderland Echo Portfolio Awards 2019

Engagement with Employers - Association of Colleges (AoC) Beacon Award 2017

(Sunderland College On-programme Survey 2017)

Selected by DfE for 2021 T Level pilot to deliver the new high-quality technical qualifications.

98% overall employer satisfaction - Employer Survey 2018/19