Auckland Castle and Bishop Auckland College Join Forces

An innovative educational training partnership between the North East’s newest heritage attraction and a college is set to create scores of highly skilled jobs for young people.
Auckland Castle and Bishop Auckland College have joined forces to launch a new apprenticeship academy to equip students with the expertise needed for the planned £60m redevelopment of the former palace home of England’s only Prince Bishops.
The Auckland Academy is believed to be the first time an independently run heritage attraction and further education college has teamed up in this way.
The ground-breaking initiative has grown from an existing affiliation with Bishop Auckland College which has already seen four apprentices join Auckland Castle’s rapidly expanding workforce over the past six months.
With more than 100 new full and part-time posts predicted to be generated at Auckland Castle alone by the exciting restoration and expansion plans set to get underway this year, the charitable trust behind the Bishop Auckland-based tourist destination, is keen to nurture the area’s young talent.
Between 15 and 20 students are expected to sign-up for the inaugural academy course starting this September, which will offer work experience, training, and apprenticeship opportunities at not just Auckland Castle but other local employers, alongside academic qualifications.
Not everyone who wins a place on the two year academy programme will be guaranteed a final job.
But Rebecca Coates, Auckland Castle Trust’s Human Resources Director, who is leading on the partnership with Bishop Auckland College, said: “What we will be able to give the students is a better opportunity to find other skilled jobs.
“The academy is as much about the castle and Bishop Auckland College working together to better equip young people to go out into the wider community to gain a skilled, full-time job, as us being able to offer full-time employment.
“The idea is not just for the castle to be creating jobs, but about setting a benchmark for excellence that we hope will be supported by other employers in the area.
“We want to create a pool of properly trained, confident, able and ultimately employable people to go out into the wider community who can make sure Bishop Auckland town, not just the castle, is ready for the massive developments about to get underway here.
“The castle may be the initial attraction, but the vision has always been for local people to be at the heart of its wider success.
“That’s why we are creating training and volunteer opportunities, apprenticeships and jobs, and providing openings for local businesses and enterprises to be able to take advantage of the expected influx of visitors, which will in turn create further possibilities.”
Camilla Race, Bishop Auckland College’s Employment Services Manager, who is in charge of the new academy, said: “The existing apprentices we have at Auckland Castle are a credit to themselves’ and are progressing brilliantly.
“They have been the inspiration for the partnership. It is a fantastic chance for both organisations to support local young people into the many apprentice opportunities that will be forthcoming as the Auckland Castle project develops.”
Auckland Castle needs to fill a variety of jobs, from horticulturists to business administrators, maintenance staff, trainee chefs, customer service and hospitality workers, and events and promotions.
Among those who will be taken on will be 34 apprentices over three years supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), which last year awarded £9m towards the total £17m cost of conserving Auckland Castle’s state rooms, and the building of a new two-storey museum wing to house an exhibition exploring the impact faith of all denominations has had on the nation’s history and people.
Preparations for the start of interior work on the castle and the museum extension begin this February.
Other developments planned for the castle include the reworking of the historic walled garden, a new visitor information building, and an institute of Spanish art and culture in Bishop Auckland Market Place.
In turn, new business and job opportunities will be created as visitors are attracted to Bishop Auckland, helping drive economic growth in this part of south west Durham.
The new apprenticeship academy will work with young people between the ages of 16 and 20. Participants will start on a Level 2 apprenticeship qualification, moving on to Level 3 in their second year.
As an employee, the apprentices will earn a wage and work alongside experienced staff to gain skills while staying in education, returning regularly to Bishop Auckland College – rated the top performing educational establishment of its kind in the region for overall success rates for 16-18 year olds – for further training.
Auckland Castle will pay the apprentices it takes on, with others placed with additional employers in the area. Rebecca Coates said: “All will be on the Auckland Castle pathway. The apprentices will hit the ground running through this partnership and the flow of skills into the wider community will be increased.
“It’s an alternative route into employment offering different qualifications and training. There’s this myth that apprentices are not the highest academic achievers and that it’s an easy option. Nothing could be further from the truth.”