Tendring Skills Centre aims to get apprentices hired

Harwich and Manningtree Standard: Plans – Stephen Chamberlain, Essex County Council leader Peter Martin and deputy leader Kevin Bentley Plans – Stephen Chamberlain, Essex County Council leader Peter Martin and deputy leader Kevin Bentley

THERE are just two magic words young apprentices at the county’s newest training centre hope to hear when they leave – “You’re hired.”

They might not land a money-spinning role as Lord Sugar’s new understudy but training and education bosses believe they’ve put everything in place to give students the best chance of securing a job in the current economic climate.

After opening in September, Tendring Skills Centre is providing training for more than 200 teenagers. It took just six months to get up and running on a budget of less than £350,000.

The idea is to provide training geared towards the area’s key industries – retail, hospitality and catering, and health and social care.

The centre boasts an industry-standard kitchen that’s impressive enough to stop a Gordon Ramsey rant in mid-sentence. A mock-up shop designed by Clacton retail outlet manager Allan Hassell has been hailed as the best shop space for miles around.

It is also the new home of the town’s Rock School and offers courses in music technology and retail, as well as studios and practice rooms.

The centre is based in a self-contained wing of the former Bishops Park College – now one of Clacton Coastal Academy’s two sites.

Bosses claim it has a “wow factor” designed to appeal to teenagers in danger of dropping out of the education system and becoming one of the new breed of so-called NEETs – not in education, employment or training.

It offers diplomas and short courses from colleges, including Colchester Institute, Catten in Colchester, and Otley, near Ipswich.

Executive chairman Stephen Chamberlain says: “We are bringing together different education providers and local employers with some of the best facilities you will find anywhere in the East of England.

“We are working with employers to see what they need from people in this area to help regenerate the economy.”

The project – the first of its kind in Essex – was funded by Essex County Council development agency cash.

Mr Chamberlain says the way the skills centre is set up means it is uniquely placed to deliver results by tailoring training to employers’ needs.

Many students are on apprenticeships and divide their time between the centre and work placements.

“We hope to see employers coming here to train their own staff within a professional environment,” Mr Chamberlain adds.

There are plans to boost the number of courses to include travel and tourism, sport and leisure manufacturing and agriculture. A new IT unit is about to be created too.

Mr Chamberlain says the centre has been deliberately designed to make it feel more like a workplace than a traditional college.

“Our catering kitchen and bistro area look fantastic and we have probably one of the best shop floors in Clacton,” he says. “If you are going to teach young people about retail, doing it in a classroom is nowhere near as exciting as having your own shop.

“And to be able to work in a proper kitchen and have a proper bistro to serve food in is brilliant. We want people to have real world experience.”

The official opening ceremony takes place next Tuesday.

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