Newcastle College upped its digital skills capabilities by partnering with an edtech specialist, Code Institute, on the creation and delivery of a Level 5 Diploma in Web Application Development – meeting a critical skills need for employers and learners.

Ironically, this story began pre-pandemic in October 2020. Like many FE colleges Newcastle were in a bind: they recognised the demand for a qualification to skill or re-skill people for employment in tech roles — and do so within a relatively short space of time — but lacked the resources to create and support the delivery of such a course.

Newcastle College saw a path through this following an introduction to Code Institute and Gateway Qualifications. Together they had developed an out-of-the-box solution for FE Colleges with supported online or blended delivery. The qualification, a Level 5 Diploma in Web Application Development, satisfied Newcastle’s requirements. The extensive support package, online content, 24/7 on-demand tutor support, instructor onboarding and career services ticked all the boxes and facilitated an immediate launch.

Now enrolling its third cohort of learners, the College along with Code Institute and Gateway Qualifications co-authored a White Paper to provide a roadmap for other colleges who are considering this delivery model. Other FE Colleges to have joined Newcastle’s ranks include Harlow, Halesowen, City of Bristol and University Centre Newbury and several others are preparing to launch their first cohorts this September. 

Agile Delivery

The non-negotiables for Newcastle College were that the course be delivered flexibly to fit in with the complex real lives in its local communities, that it offered learners an opportunity to turn their lives around quickly, within a year, and that funding was readily accessible. 

Code Institute has a consistent employment track record of 90% and is widely recognised by business and the IT industry; both are instrumental in shaping the course content, keeping it relevant to the demands of employers. 

For Andrew Nicholson, Head of Digital Technologies at Newcastle College working with an online delivery expert, Code Institute and Gateway Qualifications gave Newcastle College the agility to launch quickly, “The ability to get it off the ground now far outweighs the potential advantages of creating a qualification like this under our own steam, as the resources needed and the time frame involved in developing the platform would be very considerable.

Employment Outcomes

“We had an agenda to broaden opportunity before Covid-19, but Covid-19 has made this more urgent, the pandemic squarely presented to people who were either unsure about their chosen career path or students weighing the options for their future that the digital economy offered them by far the best opportunities. What’s more, the new qualification makes those opportunities accessible to them within a year — and that is all a piece with our objective to unlock the full potential of our local communities.”

The North East is one of the UK’s most dynamic digital hubs, with companies such as Amazon Web Services, DXN (formerly known as Hewlett Packard), Accenture and IT consultants Waterstons in active dialogue with institutions such as Newcastle College about the talent pool they wish to see created in the region — and actively recruiting from that pool. 

“The idea that graduates from the North East had to come to London to find work is a hangover from the 1980s or 1990s,” says Nicholson. “There are jobs here, especially in the digital economy. How we best deliver the talent to step into those jobs is another matter.”

Funding Model

Nicholson’s inclusivity agenda meant that the course, any course, however effective, had to be eligible for funding. “Once the Gateway qualification was approved that then opened the doors to attach funding to it which is where our interest really came in.”

Students aged 19 or over can apply for an Advanced Learner Loan of up to £5,421 for the Gateway Qualifications Level 5 Diploma for Web Application Development. Repayment of the loan is phased in once graduates are earning in excess of £26,000.

Although Code Institute provides the content, LMS and Learner support, it is “branded and delivered” by Newcastle College, and Advanced Learner Loan funds are paid directly to the college which also puts its own stamp on the learning through regular tutorial encounters.

“Students can set their own pace,” Nicholson says, “but we’ve said that for the full 35 weeks of the course, we enhance it with some learning development. We’ll give you a weekly workshop where you can speak to a teacher from Newcastle College either face to face or remotely depending on where we find ourselves.”

Sustainable Partnership

Ensuring that the partnership was sustainable and successful was central to all the participants. Newcastle College needs a reliable partner with appropriate expertise in handling learners and a qualification that delivers employment outcomes. From Gateway Qualifications’ and Code Institute’s perspectives working with an education partner who is proactive, has a vision and appetite for change is the key to success. 

“The working relationship has been reassuringly straightforward and collaborative, according to Lee Lindsay, Transformation Consultant with Code Institute. “We were able to address and overcome any obstacles very quickly and the integration has been seamless. The fact that we’re all working towards a common goal, each bringing distinct components, makes the collaboration satisfying and rewarding.”


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