Jaguar Land Rover

Fifteen new technical colleges to open

University technical colleges that will offer students a technical and engineering focus alongside academic study will open within two years.

The fifteen new state-funded colleges, for pupils aged 14 to 19, are all linked to institutions including universities and businesses. Around 200 employers including Jaguar Land Rover and Virgin Atlantic are linked to the new institutions. The fifteen new colleges will open in 2013 and 2014, and will join a network of 17 UTCs due to open this September or next.

Each of the colleges is focused on a local industry or trade - with a university technical college (UTC) near Heathrow centred on aviation engineering, and another in Salford close to the MediaCityUK complex, which houses BBC North and other media firms.

Schools Minister Lord Hill said the new colleges would be a boost for both pupils and the economies of each area where they are to be created.

"I am very pleased to be announcing another wave of strong UTC proposals. Right around the country there is a lot of enthusiasm from employers, universities, pupils and parents for high quality rigorous technical education.

"They provide more choice for children as well as helping provide the kind of highly skilled technicians our economy needs.

"The response from employers to UTCs speaks for itself," he said.

Each of the colleges will take about 600 students and are an additional institution in each of the broad catchment areas in which they are created.

Pupils can elect to study at the UTCs at either 14 or 16. Curriculums include about 60 per cent of material on core academic subjects via GCSEs and A-Levels, and 40 per cent on specific technical skills and qualifications. The technical side is tailored by the locally involved company and university.

Among the new wave of UTCs is Warwick, which will offer business education, on business hours, to 640 pupils alongside the University of Warwick and Jaguar Land Rover. In Cambridge, a UTC will focus on biomedical and environmental science and technology, with input from Cambridge University Health Partners, local business and Cambridge Regional College.

Elstree UTC in Hertfordshire will train 600 pupils in two specialisms - entertainment technologies and crafts, and electronic engineering and digital technology.

UTCs are also to be established in Swindon, Bluewater, Barking and Dagenham, Norfolk, Harlow, Lincoln, Coventry, Birkenhead, Liverpool and Cumbria.

Two UTCs are already open, the JCB Academy in Staffordshire, and the Black Country UTC in Walsall. Seventeen are in the pre-opening phase, with three due to open in September.

The Government target was to have 24 UTCs approved by 2014/15 and following today's announcement the Department for Education said 32 will be either open or in the pipeline.

Stephanie Fernandes from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) said: “We hope that the expansion of UTCs will fill the hole created by the Government’s decision to downgrade the value of the successful Engineering Diploma.  UTCs will be at the heart of achieving improvements to the economy and supporting a pipeline of future apprentices, technicians and engineers.  However, this expansion must be speeded up to ensure the pipeline doesn’t dry up.”

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers director of engineering Colin Brown said the UTC's links to industry would help ensure that the UK had the right skills in the right places.

“In the Institution's recent poll of 1,000 manufacturers 76 per cent said that their companies are recruiting, but only 47 per cent of these are finding people with the right skills.

“Initiatives like these will hopefully help plug these gaps and train the engineers and technicians of tomorrow.  The great missed opportunity is that the colleges are set up to teach the engineering diploma which this Government has now downgraded," Dr Brown said.

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