Catterick Village student on road to the stars

A Catterick Village student has launched her ambitions to be an astronaut thanks to a national pilot scheme for future technical qualifications.

Darlington College engineer Victoria Bennett is one of a 100 students testing out new industrial placements, which embed 45 days of work experience into a Level 3 qualification.

Darlington has been selected from just 51 colleges nationwide to trial the new structure which is likely to be introduced by 2020.

Students were invited to take part from a range of curriculum areas including engineering, childcare, health and social care, sport, digital construction and business administration.

Victoria, 17, is about to start her two-days-a-week placement with Subsea Innovation, Darlington.

“I have always been interested in engineering and helped by granddad and dad tinker with engines,” she said.

“Pops was into his custom cars and motorbikes, he was so cool, and dad, who works for Siemens in Germany, loves his Land Rovers.

“My mum has just bought a show-car, a 47-year-old VW Beetle, we are calling Blokey Bumble, which I’ll help keep on the road.

“Since I was a girl I have always looked to the stars and told my family that one day I would go visit them. It wasn’t until I started school that I realised that could be a possibility.”

After completing her GCSEs at Richmond School, Victoria studied for a year at sixth form.

“It wasn’t for me,” said Victoria. “I wanted to use my hands as well as study the theory and I realised Darlington College was a better path.

“The opportunity with Subsea will give me the chance to explore all manner of engineering from CAD design to welding. There are also the options to extend my studies to degree level or secure an apprenticeship and having the practical skills as well as the theory will make me more employable.”

Engineering companies backing the initiative include Subsea Innovation, Ardmore Craig design consultancy, Darlington, SWARCO traffic management systems of Richmond, Langtons welders and fabricators of Northallerton, Paragon Rapid Technology, of Teesside Airport and Hambleton District Council’s engineering department.

Darlington College’s workplace reviewer Catherine Melbourne said: “The engineering companies have been so supportive. It is a sector that is suited to the new qualification as it allows firms to develop young people in the skills they need to progress.”

Darlington College marketing and engagement manager Claire Turner added: “This is going really well for us as it is also helping to build invaluable bridges with local businesses who then come into college and now appreciate what a great facility is on their doorstep.

“Engineering tutor Rob Elliott prepared our students well for the employers’ visits and they were an absolute credit to the college allowing their senior staff to see first-hand the high calibre of young people we are helping to develop.”