GREEN-FINGERED students are landscape gardening as part of a scheme to encourage teenagers to stay on in education.
Sunderland College has launched The Real Project, which aims to help young people gain real-life learning experiences whilst studying for vocational qualifications during their school day.
As part of the initiative at the college’s Hylton Campus, staff and construction students are helping more than 50 teenagers transform a previously unused area of the college into a café garden.
Martin Scott, curriculum leader at the college, said: “The Real Project is a fantastic way for students who are still at school to learn new skills and think about the options open to them once they leave.
“By providing students with these positive experiences before they leave school we hope to reduce the numbers of young people who ultimately end up not in education, employment or training.”
Sunderland College is the first college in the region to provide vocational qualifications for students still in compulsory education.
It works with schools in Sunderland, Durham, South Tyneside and Gateshead to take students out of the classroom for a few hours each week.
As part of the renovation, students have been trying bricklaying, surveying, landscaping, joinery and horticulture.
Reece Smith, 15, a pupil at Thornhill School, said: “I’ve really enjoyed getting involved in the renovation of the garden. I’ve learnt so much and it’s taught me a lot about what I can do once I leave school.
“I’ve gained a qualification in Level 1 Building Craft which will be really useful to me when I start looking for a job or an apprenticeship.”
As well as the renovation of the garden, students can get involved in painting and decorating, hair and beauty and catering courses.
Martin said: “So far, the garden has taken five weeks to renovate.
“Throughout the project, I’ve been really impressed with the students’ attitude and willingness to learn something new.”
He said the college is always on the lookout for businesses and organisations willing to get involved with sponsorship, materials and industry expertise.
Anyone willing to support the young people should contact Martin Scott on 511 6708.