Launching The UK’s First Smart Factory Shaped By The Education Sector

We are excited to be launching our innovative Sustainable Smart Factory in 2022 as we work to upskill learners in line with the needs of the future.

Located at our Spire Road campus in Washington, this new facility will combine a range of automated manufacturing tools and technologies to enable professional practise with future-proof techniques. The Smart Factory will also stand as the UK’s first production-line shaped by the education sector, meeting the DfE’s ‘white paper’ initiatives whilst creating a link between employers’ skills demand and educational training.

Learners will be able to develop skills within a range of areas, from data handling to machinery programming, each of which will work to enrich their professional ability. The digital data produced in the production environment will also enable workshop project experiences to be maximised, serving as a suitable means for the future development of the Business Improvement and T-Level qualifications.

Working in partnership with the IoT, the revolutionary equipment supporting this mission will range from our innovative collaborative robots to the EffiMat pick and place system, preparing learners entirely for work in the manufacturing sector of tomorrow. Further, by strategically partnering production with face-mask manufacturers ‘UK Community Production’, we are able to achieve these educational milestones whilst staying committed to our sustainability and community promise.

UCP specialise in the manufacturing of Personal Protective Equipment with an initiative to introduce learners to the future-proof production processes shaped by evolving technology. At the heart of their mission is a dedication to aiding the UK’s sustainable footprint by ensuring all products are recyclable, thus combatting the plastic waste left behind by the coronavirus pandemic.

We’re proud to be helping shape the workforce of the future and furthering our offer of Reality Education by bringing our vision to life later this year.

Find out more here:

Our Staff and Learners Talk #BreakTheBias on International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is a time to empower the women around us, celebrate female achievements and think about how we can continue working towards a more gender-equal world. This year’s theme of #BreakTheBias got us opening up conversations with our learners and staff about the stigma they’ve experienced in their sector; an issue particularly important for a training provider specialising in male-dominated Engineering and Manufacturing careers. Reports in June 2021 showed that women make up just 14.5% of all UK engineers; an increase from 4.6% only five years earlier, which begs the question, does a bias exist in the marketing of these careers, and how can we change these figures?

Here’s what our staff and learners thought:


Sophie Messner, Business Improvement learner:

“I’ve worked at Nissan Motor Manufacturing since leaving school at age 16, I am now 22.

I have developed into a professional, confident and competent young woman and have a fantastic career. To break the norm, I took a rather different path to my friends at school who took artistic avenues like beauty rather than choosing an apprenticeship. I work in the IT sector which has become less male-dominated over the years, although a lot of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic industries are mostly male populated.

One thing I would love women young and old to understand is that these are the best paid industries, and that whether you’re a man or a woman your capabilities and opportunities are endless. I would recommend manufacturing or engineering routes to all young women, as the available apprenticeships and courses make a brilliant kickstart to your career.  

I am currently a STEM ambassador at my work, I contribute to multiple STEM events and I run a GIMME session (Girls in Monozukuri, Manufacturing and Engineering) to help reduce the gender gap. Although I don’t believe there is a stigma, a lot of young students won’t study in ‘male sectors’ as they think they have a lesser advantage. Everyone begins as a novice & every day is a learning day, so I want to empower girls & women to understand that you are your own future, there are no limits or restrictions and your options are endless regardless of your gender.”


Lily Turner, Maintenance Technician learner:

“The stigma starts at a young age for women interested in manufacturing.

Throughout school I faced huge obstacles which I thought would hinder my chances of entering the industry. I was told I couldn’t do engineering, as I would feel uncomfortable being the only girl. This is not okay. Women should feel welcome entering the industry and comments like this should not be made to a young girl. With only 14.5% of all engineers in the UK being female, it has clearly affected other women as well. Careers in manufacturing aren’t targeted or sold to women. But the benefits and experiences women could partake in are endless.

NA College and Nissan have made me feel extremely comfortable at work and have allowed me to thrive in the industry. I am excited for what the next 3 years will bring and I am hopeful to maintain a long and successful career at Nissan.”


Margherita Pasquariello, Head of Strategy & Institute of Technology:

“The automotive market is still far from reaching gender equality.

Diversity and inclusion in the sector are still critical factors that need to be addressed, affected by staff shortage worsened by the pandemic. Being in a deprived area in the North-East of the UK, there’s a rapid increase in the demand for qualified technical staff to support the electric revolution happening in the region right now. This requires an inclusive approach to address the skills shortage, increase the students in STEM and maximise their progression into automotive technical carrier.”


Our Head of Strategy & Institute of Technology will also be joining a panel of speakers at The Common Room, Newcastle as organised by Coco Charity to talk all things #BreakTheBias in the automotive sector. Free tickets to the event are still available here:

World Book Day: NAC’s Blind Book Sale To Help Ukraine

After witnessing the devastating scenes in Ukraine, for #WorldBookDay this year we took the opportunity to raise funds for families struggling overseas. Our Blind Book Sale saw books donated by learners and staff sold with only their critics’ quotes and genres attached, with a donation of choice donated to the British Red Cross’s Ukraine appeal.

As part of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which unites 15 member charities who are experts in humanitarian aid and specialists in different areas of disaster response, the British Red Cross will use these contributions to aid the monumental suffering in Ukraine right now by providing food, supporting healthcare facilities, training people up in life-saving first aid and providing several other services. You can donate directly and find out more via:

A rundown of local collection points is also available to our staff and learners to help families in need, including Sushi Yammi, Di Meo’s Ice Cream, Pineapple Black, The Cut Back, The Farmers Club Ryhope, The Polish Centre Newcastle, The Hub Stranton, Firthmoor Community Centre and Millbry Hill Stores. Our donation pot will remain in the cafe for those wanting to contribute.

International Women’s Day at The Common Room

We’re proud to announce that on Tuesday 8th March our Head of Strategy, Margherita Pasquariello, will be joining a host of likeminded inspiring female voices to #BreakTheBias and commemorate International Women’s Day.

The event will take place at the Common Room in Newcastle and see a collaboration with Coco Children’s Charity to showcase a panel of diverse speakers addressing the issues facing women in the UK, East Africa and beyond, as well as sharing positive messages and ideas to empower each other and future generations. Coco works to provide sustainable, quality education to children in poor and marginalised communities, with a vision that children everywhere should have access to this.

Beginning at 5:30pm, attendees will be able to enjoy a drinks reception and networking before experiencing the panel discussion and a Q&A centred around the International Women’s Day theme of ‘Break The Bias’. This will be followed by further networking and drinks in The Common Room’s cafe bar, 5|Quarter. You can book tickets now via:



  • Margherita Pasquariello – Head Of Strategy at NA College. Margherita is responsible for the strategic management of the college and is shaping the future education pathway under the Institute of Technology footprint.
  • Imogen Horrocks – Co-founder of The Last Taboo, an organisation aiming to tackle the issue of sexual violence within UK Universities through awareness raising and policy change.

  • Chantal Herbert – Audio Producer, DJ and events organiser. Founder/Director of Sister Shack, feminist led Community Interest Company (CIC) that focuses on working with and promoting women and non-binary entrepreneurs, creatives, artists, musicians and DJs.

  • Jess Whitaker – COCO Programmes Manager. Jess works with partner organisations in East Africa to plan, develop and implement sustainable development programmes within the remote communities that they work.



The Common Room

Neville Hall

Westgate Road

Newcastle upon Tyne


Nissan Sunderland’s Apprenticeship Scheme: Moulding The Workforce of Tomorrow

Nissan Sunderland’s Apprenticeship Scheme opened for applications last month, with plans to up-skill the next generation as they mould the workforce of tomorrow.

The plans to provide around 100 opportunities to aspiring apprentices come as a major asset to the region in the midst of a pandemic, and will see the training, practise and development of professional ability to ensure career success.

This will welcome candidates with interest in a range of sectors, covering areas such as manufacturing, business administration, quality and production.

Alongside job-based training, the roles will accommodate those with diverse learning styles with classroom-based teaching embedded into each course.

As one of 2,000 people who began their career as an apprentice at Nissan Sunderland, Plant Engineering Director Damian Wheeler has explained the benefits of the route:

“Back in 1987 what appealed to me the most was the opportunity to learn and earn at the same time. Nissan was new to the North East and the opportunities they had available were fantastic. Fast forward 35 years and we’re embarking on the EV36Zero journey to electrification with the launch of a new electric vehicle, a battery gigafactory as well as a world-first renewable energy microgrid. There’s never been a more exciting time to join the plant.”

For more information on the opportunities available and life at the Sunderland plant, visit Nissan’s careers site here:

New Hydrogen Homes To Educate On A Greener Future

Last week we visited the brand new Hydrogen Homes in Gateshead to learn more about how hydrogen could help us build a greener future.

Opened to the public in July, the homes will remain open for three years and were built by Northern Gas Networks in partnership with Cadent and the Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The two semi-detached homes are designed to educate the public on the benefits of hydrogen appliances. The methane we presently use to cook and heat our homes releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when burned, contributing to 30% of CO2 emissions in the UK and, ultimately, to climate change. Hydrogen’s lack of carbon ensures that when burned, only water and heat are produced, meaning we can cook and heat our homes in cleaner and greener ways.

Not only would a switch to hydrogen aid the environment, the government estimate that it would enable new jobs and opportunities across the country. It is thought that in 2030 the UK hydrogen economy could be worth £900million and supporting over 9,000 jobs. By 2050, this figure could rise to £13billion whilst supporting up to 100,000 jobs, mainly in science, engineering, manufacturing and transport alongside a range of roles in the supply chain including IT, construction and training.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and are excited to watch what the future holds for the UK’s green agenda, both on the roads and in the home.



Electrification Is On The Rise

Recent efforts by the government to improve the UK’s eco-friendliness has seen a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050, in turn meaning electrification within manufacturing is on the rise.

Aside from the cost effectiveness of renewability creating a higher demand for electric vehicles, the lack of gases they emit that are associated with global warming mean the manufacturing industry are keen to produce them on a larger scale. This is also led by the governments mission to ban the production and sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2030.

Recognising the reduction this means for our carbon footprint, Nissan Sunderland revealed their plans for their EV36Zero project, which aims to establish a solution for zero-emission motoring. This project brings together electric vehicles, renewable energy and battery production to look toward a greener, more prosperous future for the UK.

Working by the same initiative, our learners took on the challenge of converting a classic Nissan Datsun into a fully electric vehicle earlier this year, undertaking the maintenance, wiring and engine replacement required for the transformation. This couples with our Electrification course launching later this year to illustrate how we’re equipping learners with the skills needed by the manufacturing sector of tomorrow.

We’re proud to be working in line with the future needs of employers to lower unemployment rates in the North East community whilst encouraging contribution to a more sustainable future powered by the manufacturing sector.

Our New Robotics and Automation Programmes

With the introduction of new technology shaping the way production processes are carried out, the manufacturing sector is rapidly changing. As with updates to any sector, this creates a shift in the skills desired by employers, and, in this case, the manufacturing industry of the future is thus set to require new technological knowledge from its employees.

At NA College, we’re committed to providing learners with the skills and knowledge needed by employers both now and in future. Utilising our simulated work environments, we allow learners to practise real life skills in order to fully prepare them for the reality of their chosen sector whilst developing competitive candidates for tomorrow’s workforce.

We’re proud to be working with the High Value Manufacturing Catapult to design two brand new qualifications which cater to employers’ future needs. Using our state-of-the-art facilities, our learners will gain a deep understanding of how manufacturing processes are changing, enabling them to practise with new technology to advance their skills and retain engagement.

Aiding accessibility to learning content, our experienced tutors have worked to create detailed, clear digital content to explain learning processes from start to finish with an easy to follow commentary. This experience works to engage learners whilst broadening their knowledge in new and creative ways.

Nissan’s Plans To Expand Solar Farm

Nissan Sunderland are continuing their efforts to aid the green revolution as they work to fulfil their plans to become carbon neutral by 2050. Following this agenda, the plant have recently announced their request to have a further 37,000 solar panels installed by local sustainable energy company Engenera Renewables.

The panels will be pivotal in ensuring Nissan achieve their ambition of electrifying all vehicles they manufacture by 2030, enabling them to build every single zero-emission Nissan Leaf sold across Europe.

This would also act as the second phase of Nissan’s decarbonisation plans, involving solar car ports, EV charging stations and a range of renewable heat solutions, as Engenera Renewables are set to operate the expanded solar array for a total of 40 years.

Our 2022 PPE Recycling Project Launch

As part of our commitment to sustainability, we’re proud to be launching our PPE Recycling Project in 2022 as we work to lessen the plastic waste amplified by the pandemic.

Utilising our Smart Factory and advanced state-of-the-art equipment, NAC will work to produce MHRA-approved medical face masks to be transported and sold to the public by environmental protection organisation, EkoBox.

Following their use, these face masks will return to our workshop before our specialised recycling machines, provided by Precious Plastic, will extract and transform the plastic waste into sustainable, reusable products, aiding our recycling initiative.

We’re excited to continue our contribution efforts toward the green revolution, utilising manufacturing to look toward a greener, more prosperous future and embedding these core values within our learners.