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Students give green light to work experience

Jam Jar Studios founder Chris Taylor (middle) with students Jack Brown, Josh Curtis, Michael Thompson and Chris Buckingham

Construction students at Sunderland College have helped to build the biggest green screen in the North East as part of a major work experience project.

In total, 99 students from a range of vocational courses have been brushing up on their skills by helping to renovate a derelict working men’s club in Gateshead.

The United Servicemen’s Club has been transformed into Jam Jar Studios, which spans 10,000 square feet and houses a TV studio, café and managed office space.

More than 40 carpentry and joinery students have helped to construct the largest purpose-built green screen in the region, which measures four metres tall by 11.5 metres wide, and will take centre stage in the 1,200 square foot TV studio.

Students on plumbing, plastering, electrical and brickwork courses have also had the chance to develop their practical skills since the renovation project began in November last year.

Sunderland College has been working in partnership with Reed NCFE and Chris Taylor, the brainchild behind Jam Jar Studios, to give students this unique work placement opportunity.

Chris is the commercial director of Superkrush, the biggest video agency in the North East, and he hopes Jam Jar Studios will become a creative and digital hub for people to chat, drink coffee and collaborate.

He said: “Working with the students from Sunderland College has been a great experience.  They were willing, reliable and well-taught.  The college as a whole was very easy to work with and accommodated our every need.  I would sincerely recommend them as an industry partner.”

Christopher Buckingham, aged 17, is a Level 1 Carpentry and Joinery Diploma student who took part in the project. He said: “I thought the whole experience was fun and helpful. I learnt what kinds of things happen on site and I enjoyed seeing the work we all did come together – it just gives you an idea of how things are built and you realise there’s more to it than meets the eye.”

Allen Hooker, a carpentry and joinery lecturer at the college, added: “Working at Jam Jar Studios has been a fantastic opportunity for our construction students and has helped them develop their skills and knowledge, as well as their confidence and independence.

“The students were assigned a variety of complex tasks that required great precision and skill, and they all relished taking part in such varied and challenging projects. None of the students had completed any previous work experience, but they worked alongside building contractors, structural engineers and other tradesmen in a truly professional manner.

“I firmly believe that if you give any potential leaner an opportunity to demonstrate what they are capable of, especially under a real working environment, they will surpass your expectations.”

Sunderland College joined forces with REED NCFE last year to create a ‘Job Zone’ which offers careers guidance and helps students find suitable work experience placements.

Victoria Moyse, employment team leader for Reed NCFE, said: “Our focus has been working in partnership with the college to increase employment opportunities and awareness of job skills for the students.

“Work experience projects such as the renovation of Jam Jar Studios have enabled students on a variety of vocational courses to put their studies into practice in a real life working environment in a very meaningful way.

“In addition to providing valuable experience for students’ CVs and a chance to network, in some cases the work experience has led to fantastic further outcomes such as part time job offers and apprenticeships. This all builds towards our ultimate goal of equipping Sunderland College students for the labour market and helping support them to secure a job.”

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