Labour MP Julie Elliott is delighted that Sunderland College will be leading the way in technical skills training when its new Digital Innovation Centre opens later this year.

Ms Elliott made the comments during a visit to the College’s Bede Campus on Durham Road which is currently undergoing a multi-million-pound redevelopment to transform the main building into a world-class, cutting-edge immersive learning environment that will deliver the workforce of tomorrow through a range of digitally integrated T Level qualifications.

Prestigious new employer designed technical courses across construction, digital, health, science and education will begin at the college from September 2021, with further new courses in digital infrastructure, business administration and engineering and manufacturing starting in 2022.

The MP for Sunderland Central was joined by Education Partnership North East’s Chief Executive, Ellen Thinnesen, Director of Capital Projects & Estates, Steve Brown, and Chair of Governors, Rob Lawson, who toured the 1920s building which is being renovated by regenerations specialists ENGIE.

Ms Elliott said: “Further and higher education institutions will play a vital role in our region’s economic recovery from the pandemic, and I am delighted to have visited Sunderland College and hear more about their progressing ambitious plans for the future.

“The vision and scale of the Digital Innovation Centre is very impressive, and its facilities will firmly place Sunderland College and our city at the forefront of technical skills training for years to come.

“The centre will not only boost the attainment and aspirations of young people in our region, but the skills they develop will be hugely valuable to employers.”

Backed by £3 million T Level Capital Fund from the Department for Education, the centre will include a sophisticated, 360-degree visualisation ‘dome’ that will allow students to develop the technical skills needed for employment in a number of virtual reality scenarios, an amphitheatre-style seated area, innovation suites and a living staircase that will provide significant collaboration spaces for employers, students and staff.

The College has also built into its unique delivery plans, innovative opportunities for children and young people with Special Education Needs and Disabilities to use the new centre to experience immersive digital therapies led by trained T-Level students and supported by expert education and digital practitioners.

To ensure the Centre is a both a gateway for business and provides students with outstanding exposure to employers, Dan Fitzpatrick, Director at Edufuturists, has been appointed as the college’s senior lead for digital. Dan is due to join Education Partnership North East shortly and will oversee the new centre to ensure it remains at the forefront of digital innovation and skills.

Education Partnership North East Chief Executive, Ellen Thinnesen, added: “This is not just about investment in our estate. The big picture is about prioritising investment in our resources, curriculum and skills offer, the development of expert practitioners and strong industry engagement.

“For some time now, we’ve been actively shaping our curriculum through the ‘lens of the employer’ and the socio-economic needs of the city and wider region. Our future focussed approach is entirely about ensuring we are anchored within our communities, and are making a real difference to people, productivity and place.”

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