Sunderland College clinches top award

Ellen Thinnesen, principal at Sunderland College.
Ellen Thinnesen, principal at Sunderland College.
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College bosses on Wearside are celebrating picking up a national award.

Sunderland College has won an Association of Colleges' Beacon Award after nurturing sustainable, mutually beneficial relationships with employers that yielded tangible business returns.

In 2013/14 the college adopted a strategic approach to employer engagement and invested in growing its business-facing activity, including high quality apprenticeships.

The Business Development Strategy aimed to position Sunderland College as the partner of choice for employers, locally and regionally. An outcome of which would be the college making a significant contribution to economic prosperity and growth in the city and wider region.

Judges were impressed by the whole college approach to employer engagement which benefits a wide group of employers and students.

The main beneficiaries have been apprentices, particularly apprentices from the three most deprived areas of Sunderland and the wider region.

These apprentices have been recruited by both large and small and medium sized enterprises across a broad range of sectors reflective of the local economy. The positive destinations for the apprentices – 95% remain in employment at the end of their apprenticeship – is testament to the strong employer links.

Ian Nixon, executive director at Sunderland College, said: “It’s great to have won, a fantastic team effort. We’re always working strategically with employers. The approach we adopted for this programme was brilliant but it was our team that made it happen.”

Carole Stott MBE, Chair of the AoC Charitable Trust, said: “Every year the Beacon Awards receive many excellent submissions and the high standard made it hard for assessors to determine the winning application in each category.

“All the entries demonstrated the commitment of colleges to create the best possible experience for their students. Sunderland College can be rightly proud to be named as the winners of their category.”

The AoC Beacon Awards celebrate the best and most innovative practice among UK further education colleges. They reward colleges that go above and beyond in providing high-quality technical and professional education. Award winners must also offer something exceptional to students and the wider community.