TWO of the region’s training providers have joined forces to equip more young people with practical workplace skills.

South West Durham Training (SWDT), in Newton Aycliffe, and Bishop Auckland College have announced plans to unite.

The partnership agreement will see engineering trainer SWDT retain its status as a separate company and registered charity within Bishop Auckland College’s structure.

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It will combine the strengths of each organisation, including recent apprenticeship success rates at SWDT and the college’s track-record of good Ofsted ratings, bosses said.

The link will also provide opportunities for joint curriculum and quality developments, and sharing of resources.

SWDT recently announced that 16 staff were leaving the organisation as part of cost-cutting measures, but no more jobs losses are planned, Trevor Alley, the trainer’s chief executive told The Northern Echo. He said there were no plans to rebrand SWDT.

The two organisations have worked closely for several years and both boards believed that the time was right for a more formal partnership to extend the provision of technical training in engineering, manufacturing and allied trades, to meet labour market demands.

The deal comes ahead of Hitachi opening its 730-jobs train building factory a few hundred metres from the SWDT site.

Hitachi has been building strong links with local trainers, including SWDT, to ensure it can draw upon a skilled local workforce when it starts production in 2016.

In addition, the Japanese manufacturer is behind proposals led by Sunderland University to build a £10m University Technical College (UTC) close to its Aycliffe plant. The new centre of excellence will open in 2016 with space for 600 students.

Mr Alley was confident that rising demand for high quality training meant there was room for both SWDT and the UTC to flourish.

In a separate announcement SWDT celebrated an outstanding Ofsted inspection report following a year of improvements.

SWDT was given the top grade in all four areas: overall effectiveness, outcomes for learners, quality of teaching, learning and assessment and effectiveness of leadership and management.

The Ofsted inspectors were so impressed with the centre’s practice in the use of data and the teaching of English and maths that these are to be recognised as two areas of best practice for providers across the country to learn from.

Mr Alley, a former Ofsted inspector, said: “I knew only too well what was required to improve the training environment at SWDT – I’m thrilled that the inspectors recognised the hard work and commitment shown by not only our staff but also the learners. I was particularly pleased that the report commented that leaders, managers and staff at SWDT are passionate about what they contribute to the success of their learners and apprentices.”

“It’s a tremendous achievement for any training provider to receive an outstanding report and I’m delighted the team’s hard work over the past year has paid off to make a complete turnaround."

“We have a long-term vision for South West Durham Training and that is to raise aspirations and attainment among our learners and produce highly skilled engineers who will excel when they leave us. Substantial progress has been made over the past year and we hope to continue this great work and build on the momentum.”

Ofsted reinforced this vision, stating that, "Very good development plans are in place to sustain and improve provision further."