Education key to Teesside rebirth, says college head

Principal Jason Faulkner of Redcar and Cleveland College. Picture by Tom Banks
Tees Business Digital Media Pack

Redcar has the potential to become a renewable energy hub creating many new jobs locally and across the Tees Valley but it’s vital locals are equipped with the right skills, believes the principal of the town’s college.

Jason Faulkner was in discussion with Tees Business executive editor Dave Allan on the Tees Business weekly digital forum, Talking Business.

During their chat, Jason said he believed that collaborating with the local business community and with organisations such as Teesside University who have research facilities, educators can ensure that students develop the skills essential for the future jobs market.

“Redcar and Cleveland College aim to produce graduates with the skills that renewable resource industries such as offshore wind farms and hydrogen developments will require,” said Jason.

“It’s hoped that students will be qualified and ready for those jobs as they arrive on Teesside, but we have to start delivering now,” he continued.

“If you look at the demise of the steel works, which was a catastrophe for Teesside, the renewable agenda is potentially a rebirth for us, and I want Redcar and Cleveland College to be at the heart of that rebirth.”

As part of these exciting plans, Redcar is already looking to the future with a town investment plan, while the college is applying for an energy centre.

“Part of my role is to make connections, be an education champion and to also pass on information to the community,” continued Jason. “It’s hugely important that we educate communities in terms of what these new developments mean and to ensure people are ready for them.”

Jason has helped to turn Redcar and Cleveland College around in the two years since he became principal.

“It’s no secret that the institution was failing and on the verge of closure,” he said. “There were moments in my first year that I thought ‘Wow! What a responsibility’. To take on that challenge and continue to drive forward, well I had my moments!

“But the staff and students have been fantastic, and we are now on the verge of some amazing opportunities. The future is bright.”

Redcar and Cleveland College is part of the Education Training Collective (Etc.) – a college group combining Stockton Riverside, Bede Sixth Form, NETA Training and the Skills Academy, offering entry level to higher level qualifications in a range of subjects including engineering, health, teaching and training.

“The legacy I’m trying to create is a strong college that serves the community and delivers skills for new industries,” said Jason. “We really can change lives through education.”

It’s a belief Jason can vouch for personally.

“I grew up in Hemlington, one of the most deprived wards in the country, and I went in the Army at 16,” he revealed.

“Twelve years later I had to make a decision to leave or stay. I left to work for the Prince’s Trust in a role based at Riverside College.”

By studying alongside his work, Jason earned qualifications which enabled him to move on to become a public services lecturer and even a teacher of the performing arts.

Throughout his career, he has used the skills he learnt in the military.

“The Army taught me leadership, problem solving and decision making – skills I try to instil in people at my college today. It’s certainly amazing to think that I can positively influence so many lives.

“If we improve the college, we improve the community because people achieve the skills, knowledge and behaviours to get good jobs. I think it’s a really exciting time for the borough.”