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Northumberland College today officially launched the Northumberland Career College. Targeted at 14 to 19 year-olds, Career Colleges are a national initiative conceived by former Education Secretary, Lord Baker, who passionately believes that high quality technical, practical and vocational training should be offered to students from age 14.
The launch took place at the College's Kirkley Hall campus, where business professionals and partners found out about the new venture and talked to the first cohort of Career College land-based and rural tourism students.
Career Colleges provide young people with the opportunity to combine academic studies with high quality practical learning, within a specific industry.
A range of employers have helped to design and deliver the Northumberland Career College curriculum, to ensure students will develop skills that are wholly current and relevant to the world of work.
The launch event, which attracted business leaders from across the region, saw guest speakers including Northumberland Tourism Director, Jude Leitch and Northumberland College's Chair of Governors, Jacqui Henderson, outline the benefits of Career Colleges to high achieving students.
Lord Baker, founder of the Career Colleges Trust, said: "It is absolutely vital that young people are given the option to study in a more practical way from the age of 14. Career Colleges are underpinned by a firm academic curriculum to ensure that students are equipped with all the skills they need to succeed.
"Many industries face huge skills gaps and we simply won't be able to fill these gaps if we don't improve vocational and technical training in this country.
"I am delighted to see Northumberland College launching such an innovative Career College, focusing on industries which are so important to the region. I wish them and their students much success going forward."
Applications to Northumberland Career College are now open to those aged 16 to 18, in land-based and rural tourism specialisms. Growth plans will introduce further courses within construction, engineering and hospitality for 2017. The plans are backed by leading employers including Northumberland Tourism, Banks Mining, Think IT and Arch.
Marcus Clinton, Principal of Northumberland College, said: "Our Career College course provision is being designed with input from employers to ensure students' learning is completely relevant to our specialist industry sectors.
"We already offer vocational learning to thousands of learners post sixteen, but by 2017 those aged 14 will have the choice to study at our Career College."
Northumberland Career College's specialisms reflect growth in the North East economy for tourism and hospitality as well as skills shortages within construction, engineering and animal care.
Latest figures indicate an 18% increase in jobs in tourism within Northumberland over the next five years, growth in day visitors to 7.6m and in visitors from outside the North East to 83.3%.
The number of people, aged 65-plus, within the agriculture and animal care sector is set to increase by 60 per cent by 2035 with the number of working age adults falling steadily over the same period, which could result in significant skills shortages.
Jude Leitch, Director of Northumberland Tourism said: "Tourism is one of Northumberland's most important industries, employing over 13,000 people. The new Career College, with its ethos of developing courses in partnership with employers, will provide a valuable career path for young people enabling them to develop the skills businesses value whilst helping those businesses access the staff they need to prosper."
Ruth Gilbert, Chief Executive of the Career Colleges Trust, said: "I am delighted to see the opening of another Career College, expanding our network further. Northumberland College has identified a number of growing industries in and around the local region, which will be facing skills shortages over the coming years.
"Together with Northumberland College, our aim is to ensure that young people have access to high quality, employer-led training within industries that offer plentiful career pathways and opportunities - which is exactly what will be provided here.
"Additionally, Career Colleges encourages students to develop their digital and entrepreneurial skills - giving them an even broader skill set and ensuring they are fully prepared for the world of work."
To find out more please visit www.northumberland.ac.uk/career-college.
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