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Skills show marks National Apprenticeship Week

Bricklaying students Bradley Timm, Liam Dow, Dan Carney, Quinn Kellett and Lewis Storey with their judge, Peter Whybrow, Repairs and Maintenance Manager at Gentoo

Skilled Sunderland College students have showcased their work to employers at an event celebrating National Apprenticeship Week.

Three hundred students took part in the college’s Construction Skills Show where they demonstrated their abilities to businesses and potential employers.

The event took place as part of the eighth annual National Apprenticeship Week from 9-13 March, which is designed to celebrate apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the economy.

Students on a range of construction courses including plumbing, plastering, painting and decorating, carpentry and joinery, bricklaying, maintenance, electrical and basic craft, were tasked with individual projects as part of the skills show.

The event culminated on Friday when industry-specialists judged the finalists and selected three winners from each of the construction department’s eight trade areas.

Plumbing student Stephen Noble, aged 17, won an award for his project and was also crowned ‘Student of the Year’ in building services.

He said: “I am really happy to win two awards, but very shocked! It is my ambition to one day work as a plumber – I work hard at college so I can gain new skills and hopefully I will get a plumbing apprenticeship when I finish my courses.

“The skills show has given me the opportunity to speak to employers which will help me when I apply for apprenticeships, and it was great to get feedback from the judges about our work.”

Sixteen-year-old student Tommy Shakesby was joint winner in the basic construction category and was named ‘Student of the Year’ in construction crafts.

He added: “I am completely overwhelmed – it feels really good to know that the judges were happy with my work. I have gained lots of experience by taking part in the skills show, and I feel I am more confident and independent when doing my work.”

The college welcomed more than 40 businesses to the judging panel, including Clinton Mysleyko, who began his career as an apprentice joiner at Sunderland College and is now the director of Fitz Architects.

He said: “I felt privileged to be asked to come back to the college and speak to students about apprenticeships and how it has benefitted my career path. Learning a trade gives you a real understanding of construction.

Having seen some of the excellent work on show at the event and speaking to the students about their projects, it was obvious to see how passionate they are – I’m sure many of them will go on to work within the construction industry very soon.”

Another former apprentice, Lynne Hicks, also returned to the college for the event as a guest speaker. Lynne studied at Sunderland College as part of her apprenticeship with Gentoo and is now an assistant project manager with the company.

She said: “It was great to come back to the college and meet the current construction students. The quality of their work was very high and they are showing lots of promise for a future career in the trade industry.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of Gentoo and Sunderland College, and being part of the skills show has given me the chance to encourage and offer support to others thinking of going down the apprenticeship route.”

John Cartwright, Sunderland College’s construction curriculum leader, said: “The aim of the Construction Skills Show was to inspire our students and to demonstrate to them what people can achieve through hard work and dedication. We are extremely proud of all of the students who showcased their work and we have received excellent feedback from the judges who were impressed with the standard of work they produced.

“We appreciate the support given by all the employers who gave up their time to judge for us and for the fantastic efforts of the staff who helped to make the event a success. Our students have benefitted greatly from meeting the employers and we are hopeful that this will lead to further apprenticeship and work experience opportunities for the students.”

Iain Nixon, Sunderland College’s executive director for commercial activity, said: “We were delighted to welcome representatives from a variety of areas within the construction industry to the skills show as part of National Apprenticeship Week. We believe it is essential for our students to engage with employers to receive feedback and constructive advice. This will not only improve students’ employability skills but will also enhance their knowledge and influence their career path.”

Sunderland College is one of the largest apprenticeships providers in the region and delivers over 35 frameworks across a number of occupational areas including IT, business administration, painting and decorating, catering and hospitality, health and social care, and accountancy.

In the last year alone it delivered 1,000 apprenticeships with a number of successful partners such as Tombola, The Test Factory, Gentoo, EE, UKAR, Sunderland Care and Support, and Sunderland Home Care Associates as well as a host of SMEs.

Iain added: “As a trusted provider of apprenticeships, we work closely with employers to deliver tailored programmes which have a positive impact on their businesses. The number of apprenticeships in the UK has grown dramatically over the past decade and we are constantly expanding our services to support businesses across a number of sectors.

“Our apprenticeship scheme at Sunderland College is very successful and 92 per cent of the apprentices who train with us go straight into full-time employment. The programme also has massive advantages for employers who report financial benefits and increased productivity and staff morale.”

For more information about Sunderland College apprenticeships, click here or ring 0191 5116000.

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