This week saw the announcement of seven new University Technical Colleges with a focus around STEM subjects. James Pozzi looks at the centres hoping to play their part in addressing the skills gap.
The seven new institutions will take the number of UTCs in England to 57 within the next two years. Serving more than 35,000 pupils aged 14-19, the centres will specialise in subjects experiencing skills shortages, including manufacturing and engineering.
Announced on Tuesday by the Department of Education, the centres combine academic and technical skills with the backing of some of industry’s biggest names across the following seven locations:
Bromley UTC will be London’s only health and wellbeing sciences focused centre when it opens in 2016. Backed by the NHS, it’ll work towards training young people in health care disciplines.
The railway town’s UTC will specialise in advance engineering. As home to Bentley Motors, which has manufactured cars in the town since 1919, the college in Crewe will help train up to 800 pupils to provide the future workforce for companies such as Bentley, OSL and Bosch.
Dr Ariane Reinhart, member of Bentley’s manufacturing board, said: “Bentley is growing and we need talented young people now and for many years to come. UTC Crewe will not only support Bentley’s long term growth but importantly will support many other businesses in the area that are seeking and struggling to recruit talented young people.”
The West Yorkshire city has been traditionally more seen as a centre for the service sector, so much so that some were even calling it “The London of the North” not so long ago. But Leeds is also home to one of the best engineering universities in the UK – at the University of Leeds – which is one of the academic institutions supporting the UTC. Backed by manufacturers including Kodak, Agfa, Unilever and Siemens, Leeds UTC will have a specialist focus on advanced manufacturing and engineering skillsets, identified as priorities throughout the region.
Phil Ball, managing director of Kodak UK and the Leeds UTC steering group chairman, said: The manufacturing sector faces a crisis as it prepares to replace skills which are set to be lost due to retirements over the next decade, at the same time we are seeing renewed confidence from companies seeking to invest in our region. If we are to service this demand then we have to take steps to address these skills challenges.”
Opening in September 2016, the North Yorkshire town’s UTC will have an engineering focus. Its location is fitting, given the town’s propensity in seeking out young talent through initiatives such as Scarborough Engineering Week, which last year attracted a record number of visitors. Event organiser Unison, a manufacturer of pipe bending technology, is one of the local businesses backing the UTC, alongside McCain.
Unison executive director Peter Wilkinson said given the town’s isolation from other major towns and cities in the country, Scarborough has struggled to find skills. “Up to now, Scarborough alone has struggled to achieve the critical mass required to sustain itself as a successful regional centre for engineering. The Scarborough UTC gives us the chance to become a regional hotspot for technology companies – embracing communities from Whitby to Bridlington to Driffield and beyond – helping existing employers to grow and attracting new businesses to set up in the local area.”
Sheffield UTC will be built on the former site of the Don Valley Stadium, closed in November 2013. Funded to the tune of £10m, what will become the Steel City’s second UTC will specialise in human sciences and digital technologies. A major backer of the project is aerospace manufacturer Boeing’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.
As the epicentre of the revival in West Midlands car manufacturing, Solihull – home to Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) – will gain a UTC come 2016. Set to be run by Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), the likes of JLR, Aero Engine Controls and Arup will help shape the curriculum centred on specialist engineering skills. Modelled on WMG’s centre at nearby Coventry, which is due to open in September, the Solihull UTC had experienced a stop-start journey since before finally being approved this week. Solihull UTC very nearly didn’t happen at all after an approval request submitted earlier this year was rejected, putting doubt over the possibility of the college being built.
The South Durham college will become the North East’s first UTC. In a region renowned for its industrial heritage and currently home to large operations from manufacturers such as Nissan, the South Durham UTC will specialise in advanced manufacturing and engineering. It will be backed by the University of Sunderland, chassis manufacturer Gestamp Tallent, and Hitachi Rail Europe, which moved its headquarters to the UK earlier this year.
Darren Cumner, manufacturing plant manager at Hitachi’s site in Newton Aycliffe, feels the new UTC will be a good solution for providing new skills in the region. “We are keen to interest young people in engineering and technical professions and we believe that a UTC is an excellent way of doing so from an early age,” he said.