Plans to grow the North East’s economy and create more and better jobs are moving forward and Newcastle College University Centre has launched a unique, first of its kind in the UK, accelerated degree apprenticeship, which will support the region’s digital strategy.
Tony Lewin, principal of Newcastle College University Centre said: “As a college with a university centre, our priority remains supporting our learners into skilled employment.
“At a time when unemployment is higher in the North East than in anywhere else in the country, we understand the importance of driving economic growth for our region and the opportunities and benefits it will bring to those who live and work here.
“I’m sure that everyone wants to see increased investment in the North East and new job opportunities, but one of the biggest challenges is ensuring that we have a skilled workforce to continue to meet that growth.
“At the university centre, we work closely with the region’s employers to ensure that there is adequate education and skills training, not only to help fill current skills gaps, but meet the evolving needs of industry. By producing that pipeline of skilled people, particularly in the region’s priority growth areas, we can help the region to grow.”
The priority areas that Tony refers to are the four – digital, life sciences, advanced manufacturing and energy - set out by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NE LEP)’s Strategic Economic Plan (SEP), launched in 2014 to support its aim of creating 100,000 new and better jobs in the region by 2024. Now, more than halfway to achieving that goal at the five-year milestone, the NE LEP has launched its Digital for Growth strategy.
Building on its broader objectives for the region, the new strategy sets out a plan to grow the existing digital sector and lead the digitalisation of all industries across the region, by improving the digital capabilities of businesses – both local employers and those which invest and trade here. Importantly for Newcastle College University Centre, one of its main aims is to address the digital skills gaps and build a digitally-skilled workforce, by bringing together partners from across the region, including educators and employers.
Following the strategy launch, Newcastle College University Centre has announced a unique qualification which meets the evolving needs of digital employers and supports the LEP’s vision to make digital careers attractive and viable for more people. The Digital and Technology Solutions Professional Degree Apprenticeship is an accelerated programme which will help people become fully qualified in just two years, rather than the traditional three.
The first of its kind in the UK, it has been developed with Accenture and other key digital employers to cover a broad base of digital skills and fundamental programming competencies, while offering additional specialisms including cyber security, data analysis, software engineering or network engineering.
Tony explains: “Newcastle College University Centre has been delivering a traditional degree in Digital and Technology Solutions for three years now.
“Through our relationships with employers, we recognised that while our graduates are achieving the right knowledge, skills and behaviours, the digital sector needs a more effective way of recruiting employees who are going to quickly be productive and useful.
“In response to that, we’ve worked closely with Accenture to create a more efficient way of meeting those needs. Apprentices achieve their career goals faster, whilst being employed within the sector and those businesses benefit from a much quicker return on investment and a more effective employee.”
The programme adds to Newcastle College University Centre’s already successful apprenticeship and degree delivery across many sectors. Its model is to work with employers and develop programmes to address industry demands and provide a pipeline of talent which will enable growth.
Tony continues: “Newcastle College University Centre understands that the plan set out by the LEP is vital for our region and it’s important that as a skills provider we are aligned to it wherever possible. “Working with industry is really the only effective way to develop effective education for the need of the region and that’s why relationships with employers are so central to everything we do.
“I believe that working with a business to design a course which actually matches what they look for and what they need in their workforce offers a huge number of benefits, whether you’re a learner, a business or anyone looking to drive growth in the region.
“Some of the courses and apprenticeships we have developed in the last few years, particularly in the energy sector, have shown how much can be achieved by working in partnership with industry to meet a shared goal. The new digital degree apprenticeship is another example of the college providing a solution to the region’s skills shortages.”
In another initiative which supports the North East’s digital sector, Newcastle College University Centre launched its Stay and Succeed project in September. Over three years, Stay and Succeed aims to tackle skills gaps in digital technology and advanced manufacturing, by creating a number of 12 month internships for graduates in these areas.
The initiative has been awarded £280,000 of funding from the Office for Students (OfS), as part of a scheme to help keep graduate talent in home cities and address regional skills gaps. This funding will help the University Centre contribute up to 50% of paid salaries for graduates on the internships.
The bid for funding was backed by a number of key businesses in the region, including Dynamo, Digital Catapult, Make UK and the North East Automotive Alliance.
“Through this project we can support two priority areas of growth for the region by ensuring our students have the right skills, but also that they are given the opportunity to use those skills here in their home region,” says Tony.
“It will not only help our graduates, but by working collaboratively with employers in those areas, we can also continue to develop our degree programmes to address their employment needs.
“Newcastle College University Centre was developed in response to industry demand for skilled graduates. We often say that it offers a degree with difference and I think that our graduate internships and our new digital degree apprenticeship both deliver that.”