THE country’s Skills Minister had high praise for her old college for embracing the very latest technology for the next generation of learners.
MP Andrea Jenkyns studied business and computer studies at the old Darlington College of Technology in Cleveland Avenue as a teenager when she lived in the town’s Haughton-le-Skerne.
She visited the new Haughton Road campus for a tour and talks with senior management on the future of learning.
The Conservative MP for Morley and Outwood, Mrs Jenkyns is Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Skills, Further and Higher Education at the Department for Education.
She said: “I was really keen to come back and the college is amazing; what a great building. I am a massive fan of further education and the technology that is coming in is mind-blowing. Students tell me that college has changed their lives and has helped set them on a completely different track.
“Darlington College is very well respected, particularly with the Department for Education. The next generation’s grasp of technology is so advanced so it is great to hear that Darlington College is embracing this.”
Mrs Jenkyns was taken on a tour of the college, which has 6,000 part-time and full-time students and apprentices studying courses ranging from level 1 to level 7, by Principal Kate Roe and Deputy Principal Carole Todd.
She was shown the brand new robotics laboratory and told about the planned immersive learning facility that will use virtual reality technology to help students reach a variety of inaccessible places where they will learn to operate in safety.
“This is the first time I have heard of an FE college with such facilities which are normally at universities,” she said. “It is also great that the college is teaching T-Levels, which will have the same standing as A Levels. I do think that FE colleges are the hub of the community bringing together schools, learners and employers.”
Ms Roe said: “T-levels are a very exciting development. We have been placing students with employers for the past three years as part of a national pilot and this has led to some fabulous opportunities for young people.
“With the fast-changing nature of the world, driven by rapid developments in technology, we make sure we review our curriculum every year to ensure that it is relevant to the needs of students and meets employers’ demands, which is vital for this country’s productivity.”
Mrs Todd added: “We are working closely with many local employers and their word of mouth about their positive experiences of the new qualification is proving to be so important.
“We have employers who support students through their further education and onto higher education which allows them to gain a degree without necessarily accruing debt.
“We have moved into robotics and virtual reality capability, thanks to the Strategic Development Fund, and there isn’t another college in the North East with our facilities.”