A transatlantic training partnership is ensuring North East students get a world-class education, bringing business to the classroom to connect careers to the curriculum.

Education Partnership North East – comprising Sunderland College, Hartlepool Sixth Form and Northumberland College – is working with Ford Next Generation Learning (NGL), Edge Foundation and the North East LEP.  This partnership was inspired following exchange visits with Tennessee education provider Nashville Academies to learn how their innovative ways of working are delivering better outcomes for students and supporting the economy.

The partnership, originally formed between Sunderland College and Ford NGL – which has been supported by the college’s links to the North East LEP and Edge Future Learning – means that students in the region are experiencing new approaches to teaching that have transformed outcomes in Nashville, with a focus on experiential learning based on close working relationships with local employers and community partners.

Nashville Academies is a trailblazer in the US, having redesigned education to turn around once-low rates of high school graduation.  It is now held up by The White House as an exemplar, with student outcomes among the best in the country.

Ellen Thinnesen, Chief Executive of Education Partnership North East, said: “Education is the route to a rewarding career, which must always align to the needs of business, as well as the economic needs of the region. A at the heart of our ambition as a college group is a commitment to deliver an employment-led, careers-focused curriculum.

“It has been fascinating to see how the Ford NGL framework and Nashville Academies are really embedding an employment led approach into their curriculum and to understand the journey they have taken to achieve such incredible results.

“We started using this new knowledge to support a small pilot group of health and social care students who had left school with limited qualifications. And because the programme has been so successful, we have now extended this across Education Partnership North East and into other industry areas including construction, sport, creative industries and digital. In doing so this world-class education programme now includes over 100 students across the group, and we will be working more closely than ever with our business partners to connect our students’ learning to careers that will fuel the region’s economic growth.”

Leaders at Education Partnership North East formed the partnership after seeing how Nashville Academies have reimagined their approach to learning, something that has driven up outcomes for students.  It is part of a wider programme of work with Ford NGL, Edge Future Learning and the North East LEP, that aims to pilot innovative ways of delivering education to ensure that the future skills needs of the region are met and that North East students realise their potential.

One particular area of focus of the Academies has been its work with Ford NGL, part of Ford Motors, one of Tennessee’s major employers, as well as a range of businesses in the area to deliver training that is grounded in the needs of industry.

“As a learning organisation, it is important that we continue to develop, alongside our students, and that means looking outside of the organisation to support every young person to achieve more in life and in work, and to better fulfil our commitment to the local communities we work in,” added Ellen.

Ford NGL are renowned for the work they have done to reinvigorate community connected learning and curriculum delivery, supporting students to be work-ready and enabling key industries in the area to succeed.

“As an anchor institution in the region, we have a vital role to play in improving workforce and economic development outcomes through delivering on the skills needs of the region.  This exciting partnership is all about preparing a new generation of young people and is reflective of our approach to community connected partnerships, systems leadership and our ambition to innovate and go further, and we’re achieving that.”

Education Partnership North East has led a number of initiatives to pilot new curriculum delivery, including its work on an innovative, four-year careers education pilot programme with the Gatsby Foundation.  The college was selected to play a key role in the pilot of a new careers guidance framework, which tested eight benchmarks that defined the best careers provision in schools and colleges.

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