Sunderland College will weather any Brexit storm or Nissan troubles, education chiefs said

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Uncertainty over Brexit and future of Nissan in the North East is unlikely to ‘destabilise’ Sunderland College.

Bosses at the further education college are confident that even if their apprenticeship provision did take a hit, it would not have a major impact on their finances.

The assurance came following yesterday’s decision by the Japanese car-marker’s to pull its Infiniti brand out of its Washington plant.

Iain Nixon, the college’s executive director of commercial activity, said: “There’s less of a financial risk, although clearly we would not want that [a no deal Brexit] to happen.

“Apprenticeships are very sector dependent.

“It’s not Brexit per se, it’s uncertainty and an unwillingness to invest beyond the immediate.

“Hopefully what we’ve demonstrated is we’re not dependent on any one sector.”

Mr Nixon was taking questions from Sunderland City Council’s Economic Prosperity Scrutiny Committee on its apprenticeship programme.

The college, which merged with Hartlepool Sixth Form College in 2017, is waiting to hear whether a further merger, this time with Northumberland College will be approved.

This would give it a combined student body of more than 20,000.

Liberal Democrat councillor Stephen O’Brien asked whether the college had any contingency plans in place ‘in case apprenticeships start to dwindle’ following Nissan’s decision on the Infiniti and other potential consequences of Brexit.

But Mr Nixon said he and other college leaders were confident other areas beyond the automotive and manufacturing industries would continue to drive the need for apprenticeships.

He added: “Clearly we would take a hit if apprenticeships in manufacturing started to dwindle, but sectors like life sciences are still buoyant and construction is strong again, which would help us to offset [any loss].

“Yes, we want to support large employers because that’s important for the city and across the North East.

“But we also need to look at our plans to engage small and medium enterprises – but we’re not going to do that at any cost.”

James Harrison

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service