Jaguar Land Rover, Ford and Lotus have all signed up to lead an automotive charge to sponsor 15 new University Technical Colleges.
University Technical Colleges are academies for 14–19-year-olds with each having one or two specialisms tied to the needs of the local economy.
With two already open and 14 already in the pre-opening stage, the Government has announced that 15 have been approved to open in 2013 and 2014.
The University Technical Colleges approved today will result in a specialised site near Heathrow for aviation engineering, a teaching facility for mechanical manufacturing and product design in East London sponsored by car-maker Ford and engineering with digital technology in Warwick, with support from Jaguar Land Rover.
Students spend around 60% of their time on core academic subjects, and the rest of their time learning specific technical skills and qualifications.
Lord Baker and Lord Adonis, two of the people behind the scheme, have said that the total amount spent on setting up University Technical Colleges now stands at £350m, with involvement from around 200 employers.
University Technical Colleges (UTCs) will create opportunities for more than 20,000 young people to train as engineers, scientists and technicians, providing hands-on technical learning alongside GCSEs and A levels.
Lord Baker bombastically stated that “students will learn German instead of Goethe” and pick up skills that are truly needed in the workplace during a conference in Whitehall this morning.
“The UTCs are arriving 70 years too late,” said Lord Baker, after a number were set up in 1944 but ended up being turned in grammar schools, “that’s why Angela Merkel rules the roost.”
The projects approved today will join the two already in existence, the JCB Academy in Staffordshire and the Black Country UTC in Walsall. Students here receive an industry-focused education where they are able to take on more work placements, listen to guest speakers and study a curriculum designed by employers and universities.
UTCs run longer term times than comprehensive schools, operating business hours to help prepare students for the world of work. Lord Adonis stated at the same conference in Whitehall that between the ages of 14 and 18 this will result in an extra year’s worth of teaching.
Lord Adonis said: “There are challenges due to the starting age of UTCs. Whether this stays as a schools experiment or whether it becomes a national model will depend on how it is tied to the present schools system.”
In a recent poll carried out by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, 76% said that their companies are recruiting, but only 47% of these are finding people with the right skills.
Dr Colin Brown, director of engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers commented: “These new colleges with links to industry will help to ensure that we have the right skills in the right places. The great missed opportunity is that the colleges are set up to teach the engineering diploma which this Government has now downgraded.”