A Newton Aycliffe training firm is providing local young people and employers with a route to higher education thanks to new Higher National Certificate (HNC) courses in four key areas of engineering.

South West Durham Training (SWDT) on Aycliffe Business Park, which celebrates its 50 th year in 2017, is now delivering HNC programmes to a number of major firms in the area including Cummins, 3M and Nifco.

SWDT has taken on experienced engineering lecturer Brian Corker, who has worked in the engineering education sector for more than 25 years, to deliver the courses covering the mechanical, manufacturing, mechatronics and electrical elements of engineering.

It’s part of a long-term plan for the Aycliffe organisation to eventually provide local employers with the full route to degree qualifications through HND and higher apprenticeship programmes.

SWDT, which employs 27 staff, has recently committed to spending £150,000 on its learning resource centre and new state-of- the-art IT infrastructure.

Chief executive Lee Childs said: “Part of the rationale behind our recent investments was to accommodate HNC programmes while improving our current BTEC level 3 provision.

“The HNC is also a natural progression from the BTEC course and so we designed an HNC provision which can meet the needs of our local employers, by covering four key areas.

“We’re looking to introduce quite a lot of new curriculum over the next few years. From September 2017 we’ll be offering full-time electrical installation courses, with the aim of offering full apprenticeship programmes.

“So we have a very clear plan to start offering more to our local employers. Now we’re already delivering the HNCs, next year it’ll be electrical installation and in two years we’ll be looking at HNDs and electrical apprenticeship programmes

“We’ve taken a pragmatic approach to it so we can ensure we maintain the levels and standards of our existing programmes. We’re taking it one step at a time to make sure we maintain quality as we go.”

A number of well-known local firms have already enlisted some of their employees on to SWDT’s HNC courses, including Darlington’s Cummins and Mech Tool Engineering, Thorn Lighting, Stockton-based Nifco and major Aycliffe employers 3M, Ebac and Mould Systems.

Corker, a former Thorn Lighting apprentice, completed a university degree in manufacturing systems and engineering before working as an industrial engineer for the Spennymoor firm.

He also worked as a design engineer for British Steel in Darlington before spending more than 25 years lecturing in various areas of engineering at Darlington College.

The 56-year- old, from Bishop Auckland, said: “It’s a new challenge for me but I’m already enjoying it.

“I worked with Lee Childs for a lot of years in my previous role. I saw the work he was doing here and the vision he has for the centre, and it was something I wanted to be part of it.”

Childs, an engineer from Shildon who served his time with SWDT 16 years ago, added: “The critical part in all of this is getting the right staff in place to deliver this new provision, so we were very lucky to get Brian on board.

“I’d worked with him for many years on HNC programmes, and we were often held up as an example of best practice by module boards, because of the work Brian did around his programmes.

“We felt that if we were going to deliver these programmes, we’d want to deliver them to the highest possible standard, and I knew Brian has a proven track record of doing that.

“He’s an exceptional teacher and goes the extra mile for students. He also knows what all our local companies do and what they need out of the programmes.

“We’re already getting lots of positive feedback on the way the centre is running and the positive impact the changes we’ve made here are now having.”

Find out more about SWDT at www.swdt.co.uk or call 01325 313194.