Colleges are working together to make Time for Tees!

A giant effort to help out in the community is stepping up a gear as Tees Valley colleges work together to make, Time for Tees.

In this, Volunteers’ Week, the Education Training Collective (Etc.), Middlesbrough College Group and Darlington College are announcing plans to embark on a shared volunteering drive that will see hundreds of staff from across the organisations heading out into the community this summer to give their time to good causes.

“Our aim is to give something back to the communities that we work so closely with every day,” said Etc. chief executive and group principal, Grant Glendinning. “What better way to do that than giving our time, rolling up our sleeves and helping out in a real practical way?”

Launching the initiative last year, Etc. saw around 250 staff from Stockton Riverside College, Redcar and Cleveland College, Bede Sixth Form College, NETA Training and The Skills Academy in Billingham, give a day to 21 projects across Teesside, all in a single day.

Staff took part in a host of voluntary activities from walking rescue dogs to sorting clothes for a baby bank, maintenance projects and litter picks.

Grant said: “The impact in just one day of volunteering was immense and offered a great chance for staff from the different colleges in our group to work together outside of the usual work environment.”

At Middlesbrough College Group all staff are now being encouraged to get involved, which could see upwards of 1000 people giving their time to the community. The college’s first batch of volunteers are due to start their efforts this weekend, supporting Teesside Hospice with donation buckets at the James Arthur concert at the Riverside Stadium.

Zoe Lewis, chief executive and principal at Middlesbrough College Group, said: “There is nothing more important to the college and its staff than the community in which we work and which we serve, so taking part in Time for Tees was something which we were all very keen to do.

“Our staff are all looking forward to putting their time to good use by taking part in a whole range of different projects which will benefit the local community in myriad different ways. Time for Tees is a great way of demonstrating our commitment to the community and a very practical way to bring about change and improvement in the area.”

Also joining the volunteering drive will be teams from Darlington College. Principal and chief executive David Gartland said: “Darlington College is delighted to be taking part in this initiative. We already have great relationships within the communities we serve.

“By enabling our staff to fundraise and volunteer as part of a dedicated week, it allows wider participation, supports our own wellbeing initiatives and further cements our commitment to being a college at the heart of the community.”

Looking forward to a bumper event, Etc. chief executive Grant added: “To now have FE colleagues from Darlington College and Middlesbrough College Group join the project means this summer Time for Tees can reach even more good causes, offering us a unique insight into the incredible work that goes on by so many amazing organisations in our region.”

NETA Training shares plans for new £14m facility in Thornaby

NETA Training has unveiled plans for the development of its £14m purpose-built centre in Thornaby.

A flagship project of the Thornaby Town Deal, the new campus will further enhance the delivery of quality engineering and construction training, within the borough, for young people and adults.

“After many months in the pipeline we are excited to be bringing the brand-new NETA Training site to Thornaby,” said the Education Training Collective’s chief operating officer Phil Hastie.

“NETA has a long history of meeting the skills needs of employers in our region and beyond, this development will now bring together NETA’s industrial heritage with fantastic new facilities.”

Artwork for new NETA Training development
Artwork for new NETA Training development in Thornaby

Made possible with £4.5m from the Government’s Town Deal fund, and delivered in partnership with Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council and with the support of the Thornaby Town Deal Board, the new building will be situated on the Stockton Riverside College site, with work expected to start late in the summer.  

Further funding has been secured from the Department for Education and investment from the Education Training Collective (Etc.).

Maintaining its strong identity and brand, NETA Training will have its own access point off Princeton Drive and continue to deliver its full range of training services, including commercial courses, testing and certification, apprenticeship training and full-time engineering programmes for school-leavers. 

The 5,000 square metre facility will comprise bespoke industry workshops for the delivery of engineering skills, including welding, electrical, mechanical, pipefitting and rigging and lifting.

Investment will see some of the latest high spec industry-standard equipment sitting alongside traditional heavy-duty machinery, maintaining NETA’s unique character and appeal.

Phil said: “A new building for NETA has been on our wish list for a number of years, it is incredible, thanks to the Thornaby Town Deal, to finally be able to make this happen.”

Working with employers, the local and combined authorities, this is the latest in a series of improvement projects delivered by the Etc., a group of Teesside colleges and training providers which includes NETA Training and Stockton Riverside College, to increase opportunities and create better facilities in which to learn.

Development of the new building in Thornaby will run alongside the creation of the NETA-led All Access Academy at Redcar and Cleveland College, announced in March, delivering training in the likes of scaffolding, rope access and rigging and lifting.

NETA director Sean Johnston said: “These are exciting times for NETA, our staff, learners, delegates and all the employers that we work with.  We can’t wait to see both our new centre in Thornaby and the All Access Academy in Redcar up and running.

“Engineering and construction skills have a massive part to play in Teesside’s industrial future.  We want to help create a workforce on our doorstep with the knowledge, talent and abilities to ensure our communities benefit from that.”

The relocation of NETA is one of the priority interventions that are set to bring long-term change and investment into Thornaby as part of its town deal.  The interventions were identified by the Thornaby Town Deal Board, a group of local stakeholders who support the town investment plan, made up of key public and private sector bodies.

Mark White CBE DL, chair of Thornaby Town Deal Board and chair of Stockton-on-Tees Strategic Education Board, said: “The opportunity for NETA’s relocation highlights how our Town Investment Plan will unlock fantastic opportunities for Thornaby-on-Tees.  It allows communities to prosper, employers to find staff that will help their businesses and the local economy to grow and flourish.

“Bringing a campus of such scale and significance to Stockton Riverside College is testament to the quality of ambition for the interventions and the hard work of the Town Deal Board.

“This is a very important step in making our ambitions for the Thornaby Town Deal a reality.”

Iain Robinson, assistant director for town centres development at Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, said: “The Thornaby Town Deal is part of the council’s exciting regeneration programme that will help the borough to be recognised for its thriving economy at the heart of the Tees Valley and as a place where everyone has the opportunity to succeed.

“The plans for a new NETA Training facility, as well as our ambition to create the nationally significant Tees Valley Care and Health Innovation Zone, will help to breathe new life into Teesdale Business Park and bring a host of wider benefits for the borough.”

We have made the Good Work Pledge

Here at the Education Training Collective we are constantly striving to make our colleges and training providers a great place to work.


So, when it comes to our delivery working with subcontractors in the North of Tyne, it made sense to sign up to the North of Tyne Combined Authority’s Good Work Pledge.


The pledge has been created to help employers operating in the area to identify ‘good work’ in their own organisation, get recognised for this, or spot areas for potential improvement.

A major part of its vision is to recognise the importance of residents being able to access meaningful work in the region that offers, as a minimum, job security, skills, progression and decent pay.


Etc. now joins more than 150 organisations to have achieved Good Work Pledge awards.


Bringing businesses together to share good practice, the pledge is set around “Five Pillars” with main themes of:
• Valuing and rewarding your workforce
• Promoting health and wellbeing
• Effective communications and representation
• Developing a balanced workforce
• A social responsibility


Etc. partnerships manager, Samantha Curd, said: “We currently deliver a small number of courses in the North of Tyne region, and we are hopeful that we can significantly increase delivery in 2024-25.


“Part of our contract working with the North of Tyne Combined Authority is a commitment to sign up to the Good Work Pledge.”


On achieving the Standard Good Work Pledge, she added: “We are really pleased to have our efforts officially recognised and feel proud of the part we play in providing people with opportunities to move into employment.


“The good practice we demonstrate across the Etc. is something we share with our subcontractors and all those we work with.”

Hydrogen station will help fuel future talent

Redcar and Cleveland College in partnership with Hydrasun are taking the driving seat in the delivery of skills training to support the UK Government-funded Tees Valley hydrogen transport hub.

Plans unveiled today will see a modular hydrogen refuelling facility built at the college made possible with £286k hydrogen hub transport funding, secured from the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority.

Neil Holmes David Whiles Ben Houchen Jason Faulkner

Expected to be the first college in the country to house a fully functioning modular hydrogen refuelling station, it will be used to train and upskill the future workforce, while raising awareness of how hydrogen can be used in transport.

Part of the Education Training Collective (Etc.), the college will also see the addition of three Mirai cars, in collaboration with Toyota, to demonstrate hydrogen as an alternate fuel in full use.

Executive principal, Jason Faulkner, said: “The government are backing a lot of green initiatives and whether through electrolysis, gasification, or coupled with carbon capture, it is clear hydrogen will be a fuel of the future.

“This facility will enable Redcar and Cleveland College, along with the Etc. and the wider Tees Valley colleges, to train people in the skills required to support the hydrogen developments.”

Sharing resources with fellow colleges, it will open-up potential training opportunities in hydrogen for transport technology to learners across the Tees Valley.

Redcar and Cleveland College has also invested in four mobile hydrogen dispensing unit components which can be loaned to other colleges to undertake practical activities, as well as using the Mirai cars for school visits and the education of motor vehicle students.

The industry-standard modular refuelling station is expected to be in place and fully operational on the Corporation Road site in Redcar by September. It is the latest development in the college’s effort to lead the way when it comes to meeting the demands of the region’s growing renewable and low carbon sector.

The modular station will be a core demonstration tool for hydrogen refuelling training courses delivered in partnership with Hydrasun.

Jason said: “This funding to expedite training and skills in relation to the Tees Valley hydrogen transport hub masterplan is exactly what we need. Working in tandem with Hydrasun, with their expertise and knowledge, means we will have a skilled workforce ready for the future and the transition to new industries.

“The new technology operating hydrogen fuelled vehicles and their maintenance is going to require a different skillset to those of the combustion engine. We don’t want to be waiting until there are thousands of vehicles on the roads before starting that training.

“With colleges working together, it’s exciting and heartening to be able to bring these opportunities to Teesside and the wider Tees Valley and demonstrate, once again, the value of industry links and collaboration.”

Neil Holmes, Hydrasun’s regional manager for the North of England, said: “Hydrasun and Fuel Cell Systems are thrilled to play a pivotal role in the Tees Valley hydrogen transport hub skills initiative alongside our partners Redcar and Cleveland college.

“This partnership aligns perfectly with our commitment to support hydrogen refuelling infrastructure deployment and deliver skills pathways that enable the safe delivery of critical hydrogen projects within the Teesside region, and nationally.”

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “We are leading the UK in developing the cleaner, greener industries of the future, including pioneering developments in major hydrogen projects.

“It’s essential that skills training is in place to ensure local people can benefit from the job opportunities being created, which is why projects such as this and fantastic local providers such as Redcar and Cleveland College have such an important role to play in developing these growing industries.”

College groups sign a Strategic Alliance Agreement to shape a new approach to Governance

Two regional further and higher education college groups have formalised a Strategic Alliance Agreement incorporating a new corporate governance approach for ‘place-based’ skills strategy.

Education Partnership North East & Education Training Collective

Earlier this year, Education Partnership North East (EPNE) and the Education Training Collective (Etc.) announced a strategic skills partnership aligned to Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs) from across the North East, North of Tyne and Tees Valley areas, specifically linked to developing and delivering technical training within retrofit, digital and modern methods of construction.

Now, following the ratification of the Skills and Post-16 Education Act in April 2022 to level up and drive economic growth across the country, EPNE and Etc. have formally signed the Strategic Alliance, including a clear intention to reshape ‘business as usual governance’.

This new and unique approach will see the Governors and Executive Leaders jointly and regularly collaborating outside of formalised Board meetings to shape and evolve a regional skills strategy contextualised for employers and the local communities served by each college group.

James Stuart, EPNE’s Chair of Governors, said: “This valued added approach to collective governance extends beyond the formality of corporation meetings and is a model rarely seen in the further education sector.

“I am delighted our boards are collaborating to ensure an ambitious new approach to regional skills strategy.”

Stuart Blackett, Etc.’s Chair of Governors, said: “This new and ambitious approach sends a very clear message that Further Education Governors, are at the heart of the skills system and are very well placed to shape and set the future of skills strategy for our region and communities.”

Recognising strength comes through strategic collaboration, EPNE and Etc. will work together to drive economic recovery and growth by giving local people training opportunities to secure well-paid jobs in key industries with skills gaps.

Utilising an innovative sector-leading approach which is fundamentally different to traditional skills collaborations, a new curriculum will be co-designed and delivered which is aligned to the respective Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs) of the Tees Valley, North East LEP, and North of Tyne geographical areas, specifically linked to digital, renewable and modern construction.

By boosting the quality of education on offer through flexible study options including Sector Work Based Academies (SWAPs) and Skills Bootcamps, the partnership will further prioritise local needs and local people, transforming the skills and training landscape.

Tees Valley colleges secure £2.5m funding to bridge skills gaps

Colleges across the Tees Valley have joined forces with North-east businesses to tackle a widening skills gap after securing £2.5m of government funding.

The move is part of a drive to help people launch careers in key industries, upskill the workforce through innovative projects and boost economic growth across the region.

A £2.5m grant allocated by the Department for Education will provide equipment and staff development training for a host of initiatives to be delivered at Redcar and Cleveland College, Stockton Riverside College, NETA Training (all part of the Education Training Collective), along with Darlington College, Middlesbrough College, Hartlepool College, Hartlepool Sixth Form College, and the Learning Curve Group and will involve partnering with the North East Chamber of Commerce, which has been working closely with thousands of businesses across the region.

Education Training Collective sites

Investment is being targeted to address the region’s specific skills needs, which have been identified as priority sectors in Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs).

Research has identified a host of unfilled opportunities in sectors such as green energy, the digital industry, construction and health and social care, areas that are carrying thousands of vacancies for skilled staff.

Darlington College’s strategic projects and skills manager and LSIF project lead Alan Jones said: “After many months of planning I’m thrilled our partnership has been awarded this important funding to support local skills improvement in the Tees Valley.

“Working with key local employers and the support of the North East Chamber of Commerce, we have chosen priority projects which will best serve the region and we can’t wait to get started.”

North East Chamber of Commerce assistant director of policy Rachel Anderson said: “LSIPs provide us with the opportunity to shape the future of the region’s skills and talent pipeline, so it’s excellent for our colleges and universities to have received support to offer more training opportunities across key sectors.

“The Chamber has worked with over 3,000 businesses to ensure the correct training provision is in place to meet skills needs and opportunities and to ensure we avoid gaps in the future.”

Education Training Collective (Etc.) chief executive and group principal Grant Glendinning said: “This welcome investment in local skills projects will enable us to build on our commitment to meet employers’ skill demands, particularly in the green and health sectors, and in doing so, develop a pipeline of local talent.

“The addition of industrial size training facilities at Redcar and Cleveland College to simulate hydrogen creation, application and use, as well as enhanced welding, pipefitting and fabrication facilities, an upskilled scaffolding offer at NETA Training, and exciting developments in health at Stockton Riverside College, will further build on the specialist training opportunities available in the Tees Valley in readiness to respond to inward investment and economic growth in the region and beyond.”

Middlesbrough College’s deputy principal and chief executive Ben Robinson said: “We are delighted to see the exciting collaborative work between colleges and businesses in the Tees Valley recognised and look forward to the state of the art facilities this will bring to our site in health care, net-zero technology and modern methods of construction.

“The developments will be crucial in addressing the skills shortages and employment gaps within our region and will provide our learners with the resources required to develop industry-essential occupational and soft skills to contribute to their and the region’s future economic prosperity.”

Darlington College principal and chief executive David Gartland added: “We are so pleased our submission has been recognised as meeting the needs of the local labour market. Investment in the delivery of health, social care, renewable energies and green construction will benefit us all across the Tees Valley.

“This renewed focus on skills delivery will allow boot camps and apprenticeships to flourish thanks to new investment in our equipment and the upskilling of our teaching staff. Students of all ages will benefit from this investment and it couldn’t have come at a better time, with so many jobs becoming available across the Tees Valley in these key skills sectors.”

Darren Hankey, principal and chief executive, Hartlepool College of Further Education, added: “To see that the collaborative hard work that has gone into securing this investment has paid off is incredible. An opportunity to further support countless organisations with recruitment, retention and re-skilling of staff is most welcome to the Tees Valley. Hartlepool College of Further Education is well known for its skill set in producing future workforces for sectors such as health and social care, construction, and engineering – boosting the skills in digitalisation and green energy. All of the equipment and proposed skills techniques that have been added to the LSIF have been designed by employers to ensure their needs are met. This will allow people to gain the fundamental skills that are required to build a career in the Tees Valley and address the real needs that emerged from the LSIP report.”

Principal of Sunderland College and Hartlepool Sixth Form Toni Rhodes said: “We are delighted to be working with other providers in the Tees Valley to address collectively the local skills needs identified through the LSIP, ensuring Tees Valley residents have the skills required to access local jobs.”

Chief executive of Learning Curve Group Brenda McLeish added: “I’m delighted that Learning Curve Group has been able to support the development of the North East’s Local Skills Improvement Plan and is a player in the team of providers delivering against the plan in the region. Together, we’ve highlighted some essential skills for the North-east, and our combined effective delivery will set our region up for future success and prosperity.”

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said the investment was aimed at boosting local industry, building people’s skills and ultimately futureproofing the economy and the career prospects of the next generation.

She said: “Our local skills projects will bring together regional organisations, businesses and education providers to respond to the specific needs of employers, building an increasingly skilled workforce. Thousands more people can now gain the skills they need to secure good jobs closer to home.”

Demand for green skills is set to rise in particular as the government works to create energy security and the UK heads towards net zero.

The transition to a green and sustainable future will support hundreds of thousands of exciting green job opportunities in areas such as heat pump installation, retro-fitting energy efficient materials, solar panel upkeep, electric vehicle manufacturing and charging maintenance, as well as environmental consultancy.

Health and social care has a huge appetite for skilled staff to improve access to high quality care and cut waiting lists.

Bede opens its ‘Mark White Annexe’ making space for up to 200 more students

Describing opening Bede Sixth Form College’s new £2.4m development as the proudest day of his life is a bold statement from Mark White CBE DL.

After a career littered with accolades, it shows the level of affection Mark has for the college in Billingham, where he started what would be a 27-year commitment to further education in the Tees Valley.

Bede has now recognised his contribution to the college with the official launch of its all-new Mark White Annexe at the college site on Marsh House Avenue.

“This feels like an extraordinary honour,” said Mark, former chair of governors at the Education Training Collective (Etc.). “It means the world to me.”

Funded, in part, by the Department for Education’s Post-16 Capacity Fund, the annexe has been created in response to an expected demographic increase in 16 to 19-year-olds, making room for an additional 200 students at Bede.

Those joining the college now have access to the all-new facility with nine new classrooms, specialist suites and breakout spaces.

The self-contained three-storey facility includes a dedicated learning area for those students with a particular interest in the science and pharmaceutical sectors, a health and social care wing and bespoke media suite.

Bede’s principal Patrick Jordan said: “We are incredibly proud and excited to see work on the development complete and to now be welcoming returning students and new starters to learn in fantastic state-of-the-art facilities.

“This welcome investment in our facilities enables us to accommodate more students and also offered the exciting opportunity to create new and innovative learning environments, designed to meet key-sector skill demands.”

Of naming the annexe after Mark White, he added: “Mark has long been a part of Bede’s blood and so it seemed only fitting that we dedicate this space to him.”

Attending the annexe launch, Councillor Bob Cook, Leader of Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, said: “It’s so important that we help children and young people reach their potential from early years through to further education, and that we do all we can to provide them with high quality learning environments fit for a modern education.

“We want them all to be educated in modern buildings like this wonderful new facility, and the sixth form’s increased capacity will bring more opportunities for them to learn new skills in a purpose-built, inspirational space.”

Mark White stepped back from his role as chair of the Etc. governing board last summer, after 27 years in governing roles across the college group which includes Bede Sixth Form College, NETA Training, Redcar and Cleveland College, Stockton Riverside College and The Skills Academy (Billingham).

A keen volunteer, working with multiple organisations across the Tees Valley and nationwide, Mark was named in the King’s Birthday Honours List to receive a CBE early this year for his services to further education. He is also a Deputy Lieutenant of County Durham.

Stuart Blackett, Patrick Jordan, Grant Glendinning and Mark White