Education Partnership North East’s (EPNE) governors recently visited the Housing Innovation and Construction Skills Academy (HICSA) to find out more about the project’s progress and how it will provide next generation construction skills for local people.

Members of the group’s Board of Corporation took a tour of the site, located at the heart of Riverside Sunderland, before travelling to City Hall on the opposite bank of the River Wear for a presentation led by Sunderland City Council.

The development, scheduled for completion in spring 2025, will see an existing goods shed on the corner of Hay Street in Sheepfolds fully restored and renovated, and connected to an aspirational new building that will be large enough to accommodate a full-sized building, classrooms, and workshops.

EPNE’s Vice Chair (South), Louise Bradford, said: “As someone who lives and works in this city, I couldn’t be more thrilled to see the progress that has been made at HICSA, and to have the chance to see a facility take shape that will absolutely transform educational opportunities for young people in Sunderland.

“HICSA stands right at the heart of one of the most exciting developments in the UK. It is a place which young people will hone cutting-edge construction skills, ensuring they’re well-positioned to find high-value employment when they leave education, and enabling them to build a rewarding life in our transforming city.”

Constructed by Sunderland-based building and civil engineering company Brims, HICSA will be a ground-breaking training base that will educate and upskill local people with the technical skills to build, retrofit and create innovative factory-built homes and support the city’s advanced manufacturing, carbon reduction and renewable energy ambitions.

Operated by Sunderland College, which is part of EPNE and the Ministry of Building Innovation and Education (MOBIE), HICSA will be home to a range of construction courses and qualifications, as well as the recently launched Gentoo Trades Academy for 14-16-year-olds and the North East’s Retrofit Training Academy CIC.

Toni Rhodes, Deputy Chief Executive at EPNE, added: “It is brilliant to see the progress on HICSA, and our governors were impressed with how it will transform the way we build homes in the Northeast, which will create new and exciting jobs.

“This is an important project for the college, the city and the region and is only possible because of great collaboration between several partners – all of whom I would like to thank for their continued work and support.

“HICSA takes our construction provision to a new level, allowing us to become a centre of excellence for modern construction techniques which is essential to the city’s housing ambitions and journey to net-zero.”

HICSA is one of several projects that will form Riverside Sunderland, including the already completed City Hall and The Beam, as well as a new footbridge across the River Wear; a state-of-the-art Eye Hospital; Culture House, a multi-purpose cultural venue; and the National Esports Performance and Education Campus.

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