Northumberland College students discover what Morocco's Berber natives can teach them - sponsored feature

Students travel to Morocco to see how the desert country's tourism experience mirrors that of Northumberland - sponsored feature

Northumberland College students in Morocco
Northumberland College students in Morocco

Students from Northumberland have tasted life in the desert as part of a project to support sustainable tourism all over the world.

The Northumberland College students returned from a 10-day trip living in tents in an area on the edge of the Sahara Desert in Morocco last week having witnessed the devastation caused by an unprecedented wet winter and seeing what is being done to rebuild the area.

As part of their studies, the students have been investigating the importance of sustainable tourism by comparing the desert region to rural Northumberland.

The project focusses on issues such as planning, the importance of tourism to the local community and economy as well as how it affects society and the culture in host destinations.

The Higher National Certificate in Travel and Tourism Management students were accompanied by their course leader Mark Rossi and head of department for travel and tourism Sheena Towns.

“What better classroom could a student ever want than the Sahara Desert,” said Mr Rossi. “The experiences of the students will last with them forever. They showed a great deal of enthusiasm and maturity, true ambassadors for Northumberland. Everywhere the students went they were made to feel welcome and given ample opportunity to ask questions and discuss Morocco’s Sustainable Tourism plan 2020 Vision.”

The students visited the annual Festival Des Nomades, where they saw a host of local and national musicians, camel racing through the town of M’Hamid and they were interviewed by Moroccan TV as to what they thought of the event which is looking to expand.

The students interviewed local entrepreneurs made up mainly of the Berber people who have traditionally farmed and traded but, as is the case in rural Northumberland, have diversified into tourism.

They immersed themselves in the culture and highlights of the trip, including visits to a variety of hotels of different sizes and star ratings and traditional and modern cafes, as well talking to local business owners about their views on tourists.

They also discussed Morocco’s 2020 Vision produced by the government to encourage growth in tourism by 20% by 2020 and took part in traditional cultural activities, including henna art, weaving, cooking with regional produce and visiting a Kasbah where they drank mint tea with one of the elders of the village.

Student Nicola Robertson, 20, from Ashington, said: “It was amazing to see traditional Moroccan villages and the culture they hold. It was also interesting to see the effects of Western culture upon Marrakech and the contrast with that of the desert.

“The trip has allowed us to interview many people linked to the tourism industry and this has helped us to learn about how important it is for tourism to be managed throughout the country.”

Attending the trip were Lucy Breeze, 19, from Morpeth, Rachael Cook, 20, from Lesbury, Amiee Lidstone, 21, from Cambois, Nicola Robertson, 19, from Ashington, Jessica Taylor, 19, from Amble and Stephanie Templeton, 20, from Blyth.

Enterprise is at the heart of college life

By Northumberland College principal Marcus Clinton

Northumberland College Principal Marcus Clinton
Northumberland College Principal Marcus Clinton

Skills remain at the heart of the economy and everywhere I go it is the subject which employers are most concerned about.

It is why we have placed such a big emphasis on creating new facilities at Northumberland College aimed at providing support across a whole range of sectors to complement the wide range of courses and qualifications we offer.

With this in mind, I am immensely proud to say the region’s largest rural enterprise hub is now up and running at Kirkley Hall.

The new hub will expand the existing enterprise activity that already takes place around community events, training and activities associated with 900 students, zoological gardens, farm, equestrian centre, outdoor activity centre, cafe and conference venue.

Northumberland College secured a grant from the North East Rural Growth to create the hub at Kirkley Hall to support local businesses as well as people wishing to start up new businesses.

It will also pilot a new approach to renting small office and flexible workshop space to micro-enterprises, and provide access to rural enterprise support services. We are specifically targeting budding entrepreneurs aged between 16 and 24 to become self-employed as well as sustaining existing local businesses.

We already have one student looking to develop a tree surgery business, some interesting potential tenants, some great workspaces and soon we will have a farm shop – all new commercial enterprises, using the resources at our disposal, opening up new revenue streams and creating real work opportunities for our students. Being able to further support our students and wider budding entrepreneurs to start a business is immensely exciting and everything the college should be about.

Across at our campus in Ashington we will soon be seeking planning permission for our STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Centre with a view to it being open in time for the 2016/17 academic year.

The centre will create around 20 jobs and provide facilities for more than 300 extra learners – including apprentices and higher apprentices – with a mix of realistic, industry-standard workspaces and classrooms.

It will also provide 200 local school pupils every year with the opportunity to learn and be inspired by the use of science in manufacturing and ensure they understand the career opportunities available to them in STEM disciplines.

These are just two examples of enterprise in action at Northumberland. Watch this space because there is a lot more to come over the coming months.

Your chance to enjoy the outdoor life

Kirkley Hall's Outdoor Centre
Kirkley Hall's Outdoor Centre

Adventurous adults and youngsters are being invited to try out a whole range of activities at Kirkley Hall Activity Centre in Northumberland.

The centre, part of Northumberland College, is holding an open day on Sunday, April 12, between 10am and 5pm at a cost of £10 per person, for unlimited access to the facilities.

Activities include high ropes, zip slide, low ropes, archery, indoor climbing, clay pigeon shooting, assault course, orienteering, bushcraft and team development games.

Andy Smith, resource manager at Kirkley Hall Activity Centre, said: “This is a great opportunity for families, businesses and individuals of all ages to try out our facilities.

“Whether it is teambuilding, parties, birthdays, school trips or corporate events, we are delighted to help give you an experience to remember in a safe, controlled environment here in the grounds of Kirkley Hall. Our open day is a chance to try it out for yourselves.”

For more information visit


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