Education Partnership North East (EPNE) has confirmed the local contractors who will deliver the next phase of a multi-million-pound investment plan across its college campuses.

In autumn 2022, the college group announced substantial funding from the Department for Education’s (DfE) T Level Capital Fund (TLCF) would see state-of-the-art facilities established at Sunderland College, Northumberland College and Hartlepool Sixth Form College to revolutionise skills and technical training.

Newcastle-based Silverstone Building Consultancy, who managed the multi-million-pound redevelopment programme at Bede and City campuses, has appointed Equans, MJ Phoenix & Son and Opus Building Services as main contractors of the new projects.

Ellen Thinnesen, CEO at EPNE, said: “I am extremely grateful to The Department for Education for supporting our ambitious North East skills strategy which is linked to sub regional areas and the diverse urban and rural industries and communities served by our colleges. As an outcome we asked Silverstone Building Consultancy to ensure this major investment was spent via local businesses; I am delighted they are doing so using regional contractors.”

Paul Wharton, senior associate director at Silverstone Building Consultancy, said: “We have developed a close relationship with Sunderland College and as project manager and cost consultant for the next stage of investment across the college group’s campuses, we look forward to delivering top of the range skills and technical training facilities.

“We have brought in specialist North East contractors who we know, and trust will deliver this project to the quality and timescales required. The new facilities are a tremendous boost for the local economy and with the college continuing to invest in its learners through cutting edge technology, they will be equipped with top class skills to add real value in the workplace.

“The funding continues to ensure that the colleges in Education Partnership North East remains an outstanding education provider of choice.”

Respected building, civil engineering and maintenance company MJ Phoenix from Gateshead will oversee the creation of filming, editing and recording suites at Sunderland College’s Durham Road Bede Campus as it expands its T Level provision into multi-media, broadcast and TV, and radio production.

The employer designed facilities will look and feel like the real working environments students would expect to encounter during their industry placements as part of the two-year technical courses. The equipment will also be to industry standard.

Contracts Manager, Calum Phoenix, said: “We are delighted to have been appointed as Principal contractor working on this scheme, the new facilities will provide much needed media facilities for the next generation.

“The scheme has been assisted by a design team comprising Silverstone, GDL architects, Neeco mechanical and electrical consultants and SHED structural engineering consultants together with a local subcontract team and supply chain. We are looking forward to delivering this scheme on behalf of Sunderland College.”

At Hartlepool Sixth Form College, new engineering, manufacturing and tech facilities, as well as a new business professionals hub, will be introduced to offer T Levels in Maintenance, Installation and Repair for Engineering, Digital Production, Design and Development, and Business Management and Administration.

The campus, located on Blakelock Road, will boast digital and practical classrooms, a motion capture environment and a 360-degree immersive learning space, in addition to a Robot/Cobot (Collaborative Robot) facility used in the delivery of manufacturing, processing and control technologies which will support skills gaps within the region.

Marc Brown, from leading mechanical and electrical engineering contractor Opus Building Services, who will coordinate the refurbishment, said: “It is a pleasure for Opus to be involved with the refurbishment of Hartlepool Sixth Form College.

“Opus has worked closely with Education Partnership North East in the past on various different campuses and it is always great to see how the delivery of these projects contribute to the high level of education that EPNE continues to deliver.

“Hartlepool Sixth Form College is the latest project Opus are in involved with and we look forward to seeing the end result and how the delivery of the project benefits the college for years to come.”

Northumberland College’s specialist land-based campus at Kirkley Hall in Ponteland will also be transformed with automation, robotics and agritech facilities plus engineering and manufacturing workshops, a 360-degree immersive learning space to transport students into international, national and regional engineering and agricultural environments.

The working training farm at Kirkley will also be upgraded with new barns, technical resources, sheep handling and shearing facilities, while classrooms and buildings which are no longer fit for purpose will be demolished.

Stephen Jackson, Operations Manager at Equans, who have a regional head office in Hebburn, said: “We are delighted to be continuing our fruitful working relationship with Education Partnership North East, which has already seen state-of-the-art learning facilities built at Northumberland’s Kirkley Hall Campus by our team.

“These new spaces will allow students to have hands-on education and learning opportunities that they won’t be able to get anywhere else in the region, and we’re proud to be playing a key role in supporting and inspiring the future generation.”

The capital investment, part of the TLCF’s latest round of funding which saw £74 million allocated to support 86 projects and provide Further Education college’s and sixth forms with world class facilities, will take EPNE’s provision to a new level and meet skills needs in industries critical to the North East and Tees Valley.

Launched in 2020, T Levels are technical study programmes that sit alongside Apprenticeships in a reformed skills training system. Around 80% of the qualification is taught in the classroom, with the remaining 20% (45-days) delivered in a work placement.

The reforms are at the heart of a skills partnership between the government, businesses, and education providers that will meet the needs of the economy now and in the future.

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