Education Partnership North East’s (EPNE) sector-led approach to supporting skills development in advanced manufacturing has been honoured at the Educate North Awards. 

The college group, which includes Hartlepool Sixth Form, Sunderland College and Northumberland College, won the Business/Industry Collaboration Award for its specialist response to meeting regional skills needs and creating a workforce for the future. 

Presented at a prestigious event at the Midland Hotel in Manchester, the award recognises Higher Education and/or Further Education institutions that are collaborating to achieve better outcomes for students, the community, the economy or the environment. 

Since 2016 EPNE has successfully grown its engineering apprenticeship provision from a zero base, building a strong reputation and trusted partnerships with employers including Envision AESC, Marelli, Unipres and AkzoNobel, amongst others. 

The group is now one of the largest providers of engineering apprenticeships in the region, with over 380 apprentices employed at more than 120 advanced manufacturing companies. 

Delivering industry-standard, practical courses such as T Levels programmes at its specialist campuses, EPNE supports direct recruitment into the sector with 92% of engineering and manufacturing students progressing to employment or further study. 

In addition, employers and their staff have benefitted from bespoke work-based training solutions that enhance staff skills, boosting productivity and quality. 

Looking ahead, EPNE has repositioned its careers-focused curriculum to respond to the emerging green economy, specifically electrification and battery manufacture, working closely with industry partners such as Envision AESC and the North East Automotive Alliance. 

Significant investment in state-of-the-art facilities such as immersive learning environments and the upskilling of teaching and business development staff has ensured the group’s offer is well aligned to the needs of the region now and in the future. 

Iain Nixon, Vice Principal for Partnerships and Commercial, who received the award, said: “We are proud and delighted to win this award which recognises the hard work of our business development and curriculum teams, our students and apprentices, and demonstrates the importance of developing strong partnerships with employers. 

“EPNE has successfully grown its presence in the advanced manufacturing sector with our work positively impacting on students and apprentices securing permanent employment and promotions, the skills gaps and productivity of employers, as well as inward investment into the region. 

“Our approach is constantly evolving with EPNE now being at the forefront of meeting the emerging skills needs of the green transport sector.” 

EPNE was also shortlisted for awards in the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion, Student Experience, Community Engagement and Music and Performing Arts categories. 

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