Investing in the next generation

Investing in the next generation

Sunderland College students are to experience life on Mars, walking through jungles bursting with talking animals and spending time in alien worlds.

This unique preparation for working life is being provided by the College’s Next Gen qualification, which sees young people working shoulder to shoulder with Oscar-winning visionaries.

Students on the course not only gain insight from some of the brightest minds in the global creative community, they also receive unique access to the digital sector workplace via some of the most respected businesses in the industry.

Sony Computer Entertainment, Microsoft Studios, Ubisoft Reflections, MPC, Double Negative Visual Effects and Framestone – the latter two having recently scooped Academy Awards for their digital effects work on Ex Machina and Interstella and Gravity respectively –  designed the course to inspire, train and ultimately produce the future creative masters of the digital sector.

Sunderland is one of only six colleges in the country to deliver this industry-leading course, which has proved a real draw for students. “Next Gen is far from a hard sell,” said Mike Jaques, Sunderland College Curriculum Leader for Digital. “But we tell all of the students that they are enrolling on the hardest course at the College and this isn’t somewhere they get to play games – they don’t play anything unless they’ve made it!

“However, what they do get is access to an amazing resource, such as current industry standard equipment and systems, guest lectures from the people driving forward some of the most visionary studios in the world and a first-class introduction into the digital sector and the many potential careers it offers.”

Mike is hooked into the North East’s enviable digital sector. Newcastle-based Ubisoft Reflections is one of the founders of the course, and both students and lecturers enjoy excellent relationships with Wearside games developers Coatsink and Epic.

“There was a time when the UK led the world for creative industries, and then we didn’t,” added Mike. “However, what this course represents, as well as an excellent education for future developers, is an attempt by both the industry and the world of education to address that.

“Think of the digital sector and most people will assume firms are based in Manchester or London, but we have the developers who produced landmark games like Gears of War, Batman and Little Big Planet for various popular gaming platforms right here in our region and it’s amazing that we have access into this world via these companies.”

Next Gen was introduced in 2015 with an intake of 50 students, but this year welcomed 116 onto the course. Sunderland College offers around 20 other digital courses, mainly at its Bede Campus.

Principal and Chief Executive, Ellen Thinnesen, said: “Next Gen is a prime example of how Sunderland College is working closely with cutting-edge businesses to ensure that we are delivering highly-skilled, fully-qualified, work ready people.

“Our suite of digital courses is way ahead of the game. We are working on the same platforms they are using in industry, such as Unity 3D, the game engine that produced the world’s most popular game, Pokémon Go and the Unreal Engine, made locally by Epic Games.

“Games design, animation and VFX industries are worth £6bn to the UK economy, yet there is a recognised skills shortage in this sector within the UK. The need to drive forward the skills and experience of young people in these creative industries is high on the government’s agenda, and we are very proud to be playing our part in developing the next generation of talent.”

In addition to working with leading industry experts through the Next Gen Academy, Sunderland College also work with a number of other organisations in the Digital, IT and Software sector including The Leighton Group, Sunderland Software City and
Geek Talent.

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