A college which provides free training courses for youngsters interested in military careers has decamped to a new venue.

The Military Preparation College at South Shields – one of 27 across the UK – has moved from its base at the town’s army reserve centre to state-of-the-art facilities within South Tyneside College.

And staff and learners alike say the move has opened up a breadth of new opportunities for them.

The college, which is one of four in the North East, offers free courses to help 16 to 19-year-olds, of all abilities and from all backgrounds, into a wide range of careers, both within the military and in civilian life.

These include academic, functional and health and fitness courses along with training in physical fitness, public speaking and communication.

And they are unique in that all their instructors are ex-British Armed Forces personnel, who use their military backgrounds to help learners set and reach the targets that will progress them to their chosen careers.

Funded by the Department for Education, they have been awarded ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted and Centre Manager, Richard Harnott, said: “The transition to South Tyneside College has been very positive and the facilities the college has to offer are amazing.

“The classrooms are very modern and offer a safe place to learn for the learners and there is a range of sporting facilities, such as football pitches, a floodlit rugby pitch and a fully equipped gym.

“We have had nothing but help and support from all South Tyneside College staff who have made us feel very welcome and offered full use of all South Tyneside College has to offer.

“I believe this is a very good start to a positive partnership with South Tyneside College for all parties involved.”

Student Ellie Mae Dodsworth, from South Shields, who hopes to become a mechanical engineer in the Royal Navy, said: “The classrooms here are a lot better and make us want to learn. Furthermore, there is lots of sports facilities we can use such as the gym, the tyres and the sports clubs for a lower fee.

“Although the reserve centre was very good there are many more opportunities here at South Tyneside College.”

Since its formation in 1999, MPCs have prepared more than 3000 young people for a military career and helped a further 13,000 into other areas of employment and training.

To find out more about the Military Preparation Colleges, prospective learners and parents and guardians can visit www.mpct.co.uk  or call 0330 111 3939.