A COLLEGE principal has been given an OBE for her services to further education in the region.

Karen Redhead, 57, from Shotleyfield, near Consett, was the principal and chief executive of Derwentside College before she took over as the head of West London College.

The mother-of-two and grandmother-of-four has led the further education college sector in the development of apprenticeships and programmes for the long term unemployed that significantly support employment and social mobility.

She has been active in supporting other institutions regionally and nationally to develop their own apprenticeship provision.

This has involved nurturing a number of independent training providers that the college partners and delivering keynote speeches on the successful development of apprenticeships at national conferences.

Mrs Redhead has led on the development of strategic partnerships with Jobcentre Plus offices in County Durham and has aligned the college’s adult education provision with local long term unemployed residents and job vacancies.

Mrs Redhead said: “I’m from a working class background and was the first person in my family to go to university, doing my degree and masters part time while working full time and bringing up a young family.

“I’m thrilled that my eldest granddaughter has taken my lead and is now the second person in our family to do so, studying English literature at Newcastle university.

“My dad was my true inspiration, as he was a very bright man but poverty held him back.”

Mrs Redhead was a member of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership Board where she represented the region’s further education college principals.

She said: “Further education is a wonderfully rewarding sector to work in, helping people from all walks of life to achieve their dreams and goals.

“Nobody should be held back due to their personal circumstances and over my 28 year career I have many stories where further education has not only been life changing, but in some cases life-saving.

“I’m very proud to have been nominated for this award. I hope to continue to use my skills and experience to benefit many more thousands of people through the transformational power of further education.”