Community champion Mark White OBE DL has proven himself a true ambassador for education in Teesside.
But now, after 27 years on the governing boards of the colleges that make up the Education Training Collective (Etc.), he has announced his retirement from his role as Etc. chairman of the board.
With a fierce passion for the group, its staff, students and partners, it’s a move, he admits, will be an emotional one, however, he said: “Nothing lasts forever, and people need to know when it’s the right time to step back. I am proud of what has been achieved by the group in Thornaby, Billingham, Stockton and Redcar.
“I will miss it more than I could possibly imagine but I’m confident I am leaving the group in a good place, with a fabulous governing board and great leaders and staff.”
A well-known face across the Tees Valley and beyond, Mark has undertaken countless governance and committee roles, not just with the college group but also in primary schools, with North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, and nationally with the Association of Colleges’ Charitable Trust and AoC Sport, to name but a few.
Spending his professional career at Teesside University, up until his retirement as Head of the Vice Chancellor’s Office and Secretary to the Board of Governors in 2016, he entered the world of further education when he took a governance role at Billingham’s Bede Sixth Form College in 1995.
Mark said: “Not knowing much about college governance or colleges in general at that stage, it was a decision that changed my life. Bede triggered something in me, I have taken on a lot since then.”
Today the 64-year-old is also a Deputy Lieutenant of County Durham, Chair of the Thornaby Town Deal Board and Chair of Stockton Strategic Education Board, all of which he is extremely proud.
While stepping down from the Etc. will no doubt offer the chance to enjoy some of the nice things in life, such as more time spent seeing live theatre and music, or he suggests maybe even a holiday, Mark added: “For reasons I can’t explain I have always wanted and continue to want to make a contribution.”
Through the Etc., which incorporates Bede Sixth Form College, NETA Training, Redcar and Cleveland College, Stockton Riverside College and The Skills Academy, he has been well positioned to do just that.
“All we do is so that young people and adults can have the best life chances, so communities can prosper and so employers can find staff that will help their businesses and the local economy to grow and flourish,” said Mark, who was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honour’s List with an OBE in 2016.
Over the last 27 years he has played a part in the growth of the group, seeing the merger of Bede with Stockton Riverside College in 2008, resulting in an impressive new build launched in 2009, a merger with Stockton-based engineering specialist NETA Training in 2015, the development of The Skills Academy in Billingham, the same year, and most recently the completion of a successful merger with Redcar and Cleveland College in 2018.
Mark said: “We have never set out to grow for the sake of growing. We have always made decisions to serve our community and now Etc. has a reputation for partnerships that are built on mutual respect.”
Describing himself as a “glass half full person”, a quality that proves a real asset when it comes to motivating and inspiring others, Mark said: “Hope, ambition, aspiration and achievement, I think they are my favourite four words. I believe everyone should have hope, to be ambitious and have aspiration. I believe everyone is capable of achievement, and that is what colleges are for.”