The partnership, which comprises Sunderland College, Hartlepool Sixth Form College and Northumberland College, has announced James Stuart will take over the position from outgoing chair, Rob Lawson OBE.
James began his career in the military and is founder and director of One Planet Consulting, a Darlington based business which supports senior leaders to develop sustainable sector and business strategies.
He is passionate about the environment and is also a as non-executive chair of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority and non-executive adviser to Scottish Forestry.
Following his appointment, James said: “I have worked and continue to support leaders across a range of sectors and the thing almost all have in common is the way in which they are constrained due to not having the supply of skills they need to thrive.
“I am someone who believes passionately that we should not just observe challenges, but try to address them and through this role, I can hopefully play a part in ensuring that we connect education with enterprise, and ensure we have the skills pipeline we need to support the region’s economy – in particular the emerging green economy, which, after all, is the future.
“EPNE is a high performing group that has an incredible leadership team and an exceptionally talented board in place.
“I very much feel I am standing on the shoulders of giants, bringing supportive challenge, a fresh perspective that is shaped by experience across a range of sectors.”
James’ appointment will see him work alongside chief executive, Ellen Thinnesen, and the group’s senior leadership team, to shape the strategic direction of the partnership.
Ellen Thinnesen OBE, chief executive of EPNE, said: “I am thrilled and delighted that James has agreed to join us as chair of the board and bring his wealth of experience and expertise to help us on our exciting journey as an ambitious college group.
“We have taken great strides over the last few years, following mergers with Hartlepool Sixth Form College and more recently Northumberland College, and we have hugely exciting plans for further significant capital investment that will boost our estates and position us perfectly to support our students and communities in emerging industries, fuelling the green economy.
“James’s appointment will augment this positive momentum-build, and I am very much looking forward to working with him to ensure we deliver the most highly-prized talent to drive the region’s economic growth.”
EPNE board member Professor Alison Shaw has also been appointed as vice chair of the corporation. Alison has a distinguished career in school, further and higher education and is currently Professor of Practice for Student Success and Progression at Newcastle University.
Rob Lawson stepped down from his position at the end of 2021, following two full terms as chair of governors for EPNE, which was formed under his stewardship after Sunderland College’s first merger with Hartlepool Sixth Form College in 2017.