A POWERHOUSE in every sense of the word, is the perfect description of Chris Todd, recently appointed principal and chief executive of Consett-based Derwentside College.

Not many education leaders can lift 655kgs, the equivalent to a smart car.

Chris’s background also shows he is no lightweight. He took up the role in September 2018 having previously been executive director of finances and resources at the college.

Chris’s educational journey began at St Thomas More High School and Sixth Form College in North Tyneside, before progressing to study accountancy at Northumbria University. After working for KPMG, Chris moved into the educational sector, firstly with the Learning and Skills Council before progressing to Northumberland College, eventually becoming Acting Principal and Chief Executive.

“I make no bones about it: becoming a college principal is always something that I’ve wanted to achieve.” said Chris. “I’m hugely grateful to have been given the opportunity to lead Derwentside College.”

“Whilst I’m a numbers man at heart, I realised early on in my career that working with people was what really made me tick. The role of principal allows me to combine the two, so I feel grateful to be working in a role that allows me to combine the things that I’m passionate about and that drive me.

“The educational sector provides many challenges, not least the continuing changes to the funding landscape in which we operate. It’s not easy working in such a fluctuating sector, but the rewards certainly outweigh the challenges.

“Our learners come from a wide range of different backgrounds and to see them develop through their journey with us is a hugely satisfying experience. To hear their stories continues to remind me of why education matters, and as principal I love to speak to our learners and hear how their confidence and self-esteem has developed during their time with us. Being reminded of the impact of what we do is tremendously rewarding.”

So what about the powerlifting?

“It’s really just a hobby.” Chris added. “But one which I enjoy and take great pride in doing well.”

The latter is sentiment that could also be applied to Chris’ approach to leadership and management as he powers onto the next stage of his career.

Derwentside College is one of the largest providers of apprenticeships in the country, working with more than 1,000 employers and more than 8,000 students. The key to the college’s success is rooted around a business development strategy that is ‘fit for purpose’ in the new world of the reforms – a strategy that has centred on the development of significant strategic partnerships with large employers that are wide-ranging and far broader than apprenticeships. This has required a significant investment in time, which is now paying dividends by leading to an increase in work with levy paying employers, which has resulted in winning important contracts in the public sector and an expansion in business from global companies in the private sector.

At the same time, the college has developed a tailored suite of sector-based strategies for its work with small and medium-sized businesses to attract employers to expand their provision or to engage with apprenticeship provision for the first time.