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Stockton Riverside College has officially launched its new-look facilities with a line-up of supercars visiting the Thornaby campus and former Top Gear test driver, Paul Swift, there to give it the green light.

The college has undergone a £2.8m refurb of its hair, beauty, health and social care, construction, motor vehicle and childcare classrooms and workshops.

“Being able to show people our incredible new learning spaces is fantastic,” said the college’s executive principal, Lesley Graham. “These truly are industry-standard facilities that replicate a modern working environment and are already transforming our students’ experience.”

The campus in Thornaby includes a brand-new hair and beauty salon and nail bar, with the latest industry-standard equipment and open to external clients, an ambulance bay and hospital ward complete with life-sized interactive mannequins that can simulate a medical emergency, a nursery and elderly living care zone.

Stockton Riverside College’s head of department for construction, professional and service industries, Kim Cutler, said: “The salons have been created to help students develop not only hands-on practical skills but also gain the confidence to feel ready to start work in that environment.”

Working with industry experts to make sure facilities match those found in professional salons, she added: “The students feel a real sense of pride and ownership over the new areas. Many have seen the designs, helped pick out the colours, and even took a tour, with hard hats, during construction.”

Head of department for health, education and creative courses, Andrea Harrison, said: “In our health and childcare wings, we have developed innovative learning spaces that focus on practical skills and behaviours.

“Our facilities simulate the patient’s journey from social care at home to emergency response with the ambulance, intensive care and then the return to the community. Similarly, our childcare and education suites allow for the embedding of theoretical knowledge into practice so that learners are ready to engage in placements and future employment.”

The college’s motor vehicle workshop has more than doubled in size and incorporates some of the latest technology including a full electric car training rig and a radar and camera calibration kit.

For its official launch the workshop was filled with some of the latest supercars including a Lamborghini Huracan, a McLaren 720S, a Mustang, Mustang Convertible and GT.

Precision and stunt driver, Paul Swift - a seven-time British Motorsport Champion from Darlington, who has been involved in stunt driving for TV and film including Fast and Furious and Top Gear - was there to cut the ribbon.

Paul, a multi-Guinness World Record holder and motorsport champion, said: “It’s fantastic to see the facilities here. I had a tour of the workshop, and everything looks very clean at the moment. There’s a lot of up-to-date equipment. When I was doing my own apprenticeship, we had nothing like this, but that was 20 years ago, and things have moved on a lot since then.”

Dave Hobson, Stockton Riverside College’s motor vehicle course leader, said: “It was exciting to bring someone of Paul’s calibre into the college and show him the learning environment where our students are building the skills of their trade.  It is inspiring for our learners to see the opportunities that are out there and to meet someone from the local area that has excelled in their career.”

As previously announced, the investment in facilities at Stockton Riverside College was funded, in part, by the Department for Education’s T Level Capital Funding grant, to support the delivery and further roll out of T Levels. Working closely with employers to ensure teaching, learning and resources match skills needed for the workplace, T Levels are delivered through a mix of classroom and on-the-job training.

Among the invited guests Sarah Usher, spa treatment manager at Rockliffe Hall, said: “It’s great for us to see what colleges are teaching students, as well as the facilities and tools they are using.  When training to be a therapist, it is important that you are not just learning the basics for when you enter industry, but you are also learning additional skills like the laser treatment room and skin scanner. It is the advanced learning that will make an individual stand out to an employer.”

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