Employers across the region are being asked what skills they need for future growth.
Hundreds of senior staff from firms across different sectors attended an industrial summit at Middlesbrough College where they gave their views on skills challenges.
The information will be used by the college to shape its five-year strategy to 2023 to provide learning and training for thousands of people – including existing workers and young people about to enter the workforce.
Delegates heard from Middlesbrough College’s principal and chief executive Zoe Lewis about the college’s mission to enhance the region’s economic and social prosperity by supporting employers’ needs.
Lewis said: “We’re always in dialogue with employers to make sure our training and learning fits their needs.
“Five years ago we asked our partners in the business community what they needed, and we delivered.
“Their views helped us plan our STEM strategy, which led to investments in our STEM Centre, the expansion of our A Level centre, MC6, the development of a Health and Care ward and investment in our apprenticeship programmes.
“Now it’s time to update our strategy and renew our contract with regional businesses.”
The event was chaired by James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East England Chamber of Commerce and included a talk from entrepreneur Richard Tice who has co-written a paper about a new vision for higher education.
Richard’s paper – UK2020 Timebomb: how the university cartel is failing Britain’s students – sets out the case for creating two-year degrees, reducing student debt, and involving employers in the degree programmes.
It’s supported by former Schools Minister Lord Adonis and reinforces the aims behind Middlesbrough College’s new partnership with the Open University to deliver higher education.
Ramsbotham said: “Strong relationships between businesses and educational institutions are vital ingredients when it comes to boosting our regional economic growth.
“The Chamber commends Middlesbrough College’s collaborative approach to addressing the skills gap in the region.
Lewis added: “The Open University shares our ambition to deliver flexible learning that equips students with the skills and knowledge that employers need.
“The partnership means we can provide courses that are better suited to the needs of students – that means more contact time with tutors, more flexible learning hours and better value for money.
“Many students and their parents are put off university by high fees, and left wondering what they’re paying for when teaching hours are so few.
“We’ll address that and offer high-quality, cost-effective courses that enhance employability prospects.
“This ground breaking partnership, along with our continued investment in young people, apprenticeships and adult retraining, forms a key part of our new five-year strategic plan and the feedback from delegates at the Summit was overwhelmingly positive.”