A trio of key resident support organisations have moved into Sunderland’s new civic hub, City Hall.

Sunderland College, the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) and Gentoo have officially opened offices at the municipal hub.

City Hall opened its doors in November 2021 with council employees making a phased return to the office in the wake of the pandemic and the closing of the former Civic Centre.

Standing at the heart of the transforming Riverside Sunderland urban quarter, the hub was designed to streamline the process of residents accessing key support.

Prior to the opening of City Hall, the vast majority of the city’s support organisations were spread apart, however City Hall is now bridging the gap between many of these services by bringing them all together under one roof. This includes educational advice and support from Sunderland College, housing support from Gentoo, and employment and pension support through the DWP.

Ellen Thinnesen, chief executive of Sunderland College and Education Partnership North East, said: “The opening of our new employability training facilities at City Hall will further extend our close working relationships with DWP and more broadly, the support we’re able to offer in the city centre, especially to those who wish to upskill, reskill or who are seeking pathways to employment.

“Being so close to transport routes, having 24/7 access and being so closely situated near the council and the DWP will be key to helping us improve the quality and quantity of services we are able to offer, and we’re delighted to finally have our new hub up and running.”

Nigel Wilson, Chief Executive Officer at Gentoo, said: “Gentoo is committed to support people to maintain successful tenancies and to provide services that are efficient and value for money.

“The decision to move our Athenaeum and Havelock offices to City Hall will further strengthen Gentoo’s dedication to Sunderland and working under the same roof as the city’s key public sector partners will result in an even better service for our tenants and residents.

“Sunderland is transforming. It’s a city on the up and we are very excited to be a part of this exciting journey.”

City Hall was constructed by Sunderland firm Bowmer + Kirkland, ploughing millions of pounds into the local economy.

The building is one of several large-scale development projects progressing in the city centre, part of an ambitious vision to double the residential population in the city centre and increase employment by 50 per cent and fuelled by the backing of Legal & General.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “City Hall was built on the principle of providing a ‘one-stop-shop’ for key services to our residents, so we’re delighted to officially welcome Gentoo, the DWP and Sunderland College to the hub.

“Bringing such organisations together will not only make their services more accessible to residents, but it will also lead to more people working and visiting the city centre, providing a huge boost to the high street and nearby businesses.

“As a council, we are investing hundreds of millions of pounds into regenerating Riverside Sunderland and ensuring the city is a desirable place to live, work and play, and this is yet another key piece of that puzzle falling into place.”

During the construction of City Hall, Bowmer & Kirkland (B&K) delivered on a range of social value commitments that ensured that City Hall made an impact even ahead of its opening.  A total of 179 weeks of work experience was delivered on site. The project enabled the upskilling of 37 workers, who completed a total of 257 weeks of training. Forty-one apprentices worked on the project and 28 new employment opportunities were created during construction – with available roles filled by people previously unemployed, three of whom had been out of work for over 12 months.

In total, 1,790 operatives were inducted on site, with 12% from Sunderland and 68% within the North East. And local businesses benefitted too.  In total, over 66% of subcontractors were from within 30 miles of the site, meaning £41m was reinvested into the regional economy – 82% of the project spend.

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