A TRAINING provider preparing to celebrate its fifth decade in operation has appointed a new leader.

Jason Howe is the new general manager at South West Durham Training (SWDT).

The 34-year-old succeeds chief executive Lee Childs at the organisation, based in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, who left in early August.

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Mr Howe has been promoted from a senior role at Bishop Auckland College, which runs SWDT as a subsidiary.

The operator has hundreds of learners on its books and is known for training future workers for several employers, including Aycliffe-based trainbuilder Hitachi Rail Europe and lawnmower maker Husqvarna, and Barnard Castle drugs firm GlaxoSmithKline.

It will celebrate its 50th year in December, and Mr Howe says he aims to mark the milestone in style.

He said: “There’s a lot of history behind South West Durham Training.

“It’s been supported by a number of organisations and employers over the years, and we have some exciting plans for our anniversary.

“Training centres have opened and closed over the years and the fact South West Durham is gearing up for its 50th year is really a glowing testament.

“But the potential is still huge, with the facilities and the staff we have here.

“Right now the aim is to build on the great work that’s been done in recent years, in improving what we do and increasing learner numbers.

“Lee Childs has provided a lot of stability and altered the curriculum to suit employers’ needs, which has been crucial.

The commercial programmes we’re running now are very pro-active in what employers want and we’re hoping to maintain and improve on the good work that has already been achieved here.”

Mr Howe, who lives in Wolsingham, Wearside, with expectant wife Helen and their four-year-old son Elliott, started his career as an apprentice engineer before completing an apprenticeship in carpentry and joinery with a building firm.

Soon after qualifying in 2003 he set up his own business, which he ran until March 2008 when he was offered a trainer assessor role with then Sedgefield Borough Council.

He later became carpentry and joinery co-ordinator at Bishop Auckland College before construction lead and then manager of the technology department, covering construction and engineering, motor and building services – the role previous SWDT boss Trevor Alley held before heading in the same direction to Aycliffe.

He has also advised several organisations in a consultancy role, including Darlington Borough Council.

He added: “I can see the potential at South West Durham and I’m relishing the opportunity.”