Launched in September, Northumberland Career College is a new innovative learning model for 14 to 19 year-olds that combines academic studies with practical learning and work experience.
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 new Career College joins a network around the country, specialising in a variety of industries. They provide a realistic alternative to traditional educational routes with the specialist vocational training underpinned by solid academic teaching in core subjects like maths and English, meaning students receive a well-rounded education.
Helen Norris, Director of 14-16 and Career College at Northumberland College, said: "In selecting subject specialisms for Northumberland Career College we reviewed the North East Local Enterprise Partnership's (LEP) Strategic Economic Plan, which highlights the importance of tourism and STEM.
"In Northumberland almost 12% of the workforce is involved in tourism and a challenge for the sector is finding qualified staff and in the engineering sector an ageing workforce means thousands of skilled roles will need replacing in future years. For these reasons we are working in partnership with employers and practical course work includes much work experience.
"In the North East engineering and manufacturing sectors it is estimated that up to 8,500 people will retire over the next five years, while around 23,000 jobs will be created over this period. The UK construction industry is facing a skills crisis caused by an ageing population and skilled workers retiring from the industry. The construction industry training board (CITB) estimates that more than 36,000 new workers a year will be needed to cover current demand."
The first cohort of Northumberland Career College learners, who are based at the College's Kirkley Hall campus five days a week, are currently working towards their one year Career College rural tourism qualification, which is comprised of Level 2 Event Management, Level 2 Travel and Tourism and Level 3 Animal Management.
Modules on Northumberland Career College's Rural Tourism course are shaped to prepare students for real-life work and include business planning and improvement, ecology and conservation, animal health and behaviour, retail merchandising all based on the land-based, event planning and customer service sectors.
Classroom learning is then put into action as the students get to visit a range of different rural locations.
Thomas Rogerson, Animal Care Tutor said: "Excursions have so far taken the group to locations that include Ford and Etal estates, WWT Washington Wetlands and Eshottheugh Animal park to help with the business module and Yorkshire Wildlife Park to look at enclosure development."
"Students have also worked with Newcastle University on a project called 'Capturing our Coast', aiding in assessing Lugworm populations in the North East, which will support national research into Lugworm breeding patterns that are currently unknown.
Gemma Goulding, Northumberland Career College Lecturer said: "From starting this course in September, the students have improved in confidence so much. The hands-on experience our students are gaining means that by the time they complete their studies, they are going to have so much work experience and confidence."
Hannah Brooks, 16, from Alnwick said: "Northumberland Career College gives young people like me more chance to explore career options and get the chance to decide what it is they actually want to do through proper work experience, visits and hands-on learning opportunities.
"The course has opened up my eyes to so many potential career paths that I wouldn't have thought possible or were for me before doing this course.
After a year of studying, I will have a Level 2 in Travel and Tourism, Level 2 in Event Management and Level 3 in Animal Care which is amazing all by the age of 17."
Northumberland Career College is now welcoming applications from 14 to 19 year-olds for tourism and land-based, construction, engineering and hospitality for the next academic year starting in September.
A range of employers including Northumberland Tourism, Kier, Gentoo and 21 Group have given their support to Northumberland Career College to ensure students develop skills that are wholly current and relevant to the world of work.
Anyone wishing to find out more may visit www.northumberland.ac.uk/careercollege or come to a careers and information event on Wednesday 15 February 6pm to 7:30pm at Northumberland College's Ashington or Kirkley Hall campuses.