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Hartlepool College of Further Education has strengthened its relationship with industry partner Unipres, both extending its apprenticeship contract with the Sunderland based automotive parts manufacturer and welcoming a further cohort of 15 apprentices.

Hartlepool College will be welcoming the next group of apprentices in the New Year, doubling the number of students currently training with the College.

Maureen Askew, Senior Controller of the Unipres Training Academy, said: “Our relationship with the College initially started in 2017 when the Apprenticeship Levy was introduced, and we went to tender.

During that initial tendering process, Hartlepool College of Further Education came across as the strongest provider.

They were incredibly strong against the competition and ultimately the finishing touch was the feedback from the current apprentices which was extremely positive. This is why we’ve engaged again with Hartlepool College.

Although slightly further away than our more local providers, they’ve taken away the barrier of transport so that is no longer an issue.”

To help apprentices from Sunderland to reach the Hartlepool every week, the College has developed a free transport programme. Meaning the issues Unipres contested against with previous providers has been eased.

Gary Riches, Head of Apprenticeships at Hartlepool College of Further Education, said: “The students themselves have been performing brilliantly. We encourage open conversation between our students, the College and Unipres, so we can build that partnership and give as much back as we can.

“I personally believe that the apprentice feedback and the standard of work has been the reason Unipres has decided to continue working with us.

The communication between all parties is a key factor. We’re always on the end of the phone or a quick drive down the road. We’re transparent as a College and we’re always ready to receive a visit. Everything you see during a visit is what we do day in day out.”

In the last 30 years, Unipres has employed over 300 apprentices with the newest cohort part of a long history of training at the car parts manufacturer. One such former apprentice is John Cruddace, the current Operations Director of the Unipres’ Washington plant.

John said: “I’m a little bit old school when it comes to standards and everything we’ve seen so far has excelled those standards. I was looking for the discipline that was instilled into me when I was an apprentice and that’s key for me. Once you have that you have the willingness to learn you can go on to anything. The College provides that for me.

“We have a great bunch of apprentices at the moment who are fully buying into what the College is offering and it’s great to see. I’m confident we can continue building upon this partnership.”

Maureen concluded: From what we’ve seen so far, I would say Hartlepool College of Further Education has the strongest employer engagement strategy, the most flexible proposal, and is definite value for money.

Hartlepool College of Further Education is the number one apprenticeship provider in the North of England and works with a variety of employers offering unrivalled apprenticeship delivery. For more information on the College’s apprenticeship model go to www.hartlepoolfe.ac.uk

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