Humber firms urged to get behind technical college plans

Humber businesses are being urged to back proposals for the region’s first University Technical College (UTC).

A Humber-wide partnership lodged a bid last year with the Government to create the new centre for engineering and renewables training excellence, which is earmarked for a site near Church Square, east Scunthorpe.

UTC’s are secondary schools for 14 to 19-year-olds which have university and employer sponsors. They may specialise in subjects that need technical, industry-standard equipment.

The schools have two points of entry for students who can join a UTC at 14 or at 16 after their GCSEs.

Mark O’Reilly, director at Team Humber Marine Alliance (THMA), one of the advisory board members, is now asking businesses, on the north and south banks of the Humber, to back the proposed UTC.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for all companies, from the smallest to the largest to support the Humber UTC, which will bring a genuinely vocational, skills based and academic training facility focused on engineering and the renewables sector.

“We are asking THMA’s own membership of more than 170 companies to support the Humber UTC and would like as many local businesses as possible to support the plans.

“A strong partnership of employers, education and public agencies is driving the bid to develop the Humber UTC. All partners have dedicated significant resources and time towards its development and are committed to providing the resource needed for the UTC to be a success.”

The other Humber UTC advisory board members reads like a list of local heavyweight industrial, business and academic institutions, including: Able UK, Centrica, Clugston, Total, Tata Steel, North Lincs Council, Outwood Grange Academies Trust, North Lindsey College and the University of Hull.

David Shepherd, group executive director at Able UK, developers of the Able Marine Energy Park (AMEP), said: “When AMEP is fully operational 4,000 people will be involved in the commercialisation of renewables technologies on a global scale. To meet this demand for skills, schools need connecting to industry.

“The UTC gives key employers in the Humber the chance to take a direct approach and ensure the region’s people and businesses all get what they need – and what local people call ‘proper jobs’.”

The Humber UTC will function along the same lines as those already launched in other parts of the country and be funded by the Department of Education.Nationally, five UTCs are already open, 27 more are set to open in 2013 or 2014, with 45 in total so far approved.

“We have the right organisation in place, and are working on the curriculum ahead of a potential opening in September 2015,” added Mr O’Reilly, who will engage with SMEs to find out their needs and how graduates can find employment.

“The UTC’s offer will be unique; it will have the look and feel of a place of work and all students will have meaningful contact with employers and the opportunity to work on real work projects.

“Students’ progress will be measured against competencies set out by employers so that they understand the direct relevance of their skills and knowledge to the world of work or further study.

“This focus means that no student should leave the UTC without finding work or progressing to further study.”

Sheffield UTC is the first in Yorkshire, and will specialise in advanced engineering and the creative and digital sectors. The city is also planning a second UTC to specialise in sports and life sciences.

Another neighbouring UTC is due to open in Lincoln in 2014, specialising in engineering and core science.

Businesses are being asked to write letters of support and send them to Michelle Watson, chair of the Humber UTC advisory group:

Michelle Watson, Deputy Director, Knowledge Exchange, The Enterprise Centre, University of Hull, Cottingham Road, Hull HU6 7RX

In the longer term, there are many ways in which businesses can support the initiative including: design development and delivery of the curriculum; provision of equipment; offering work placements and sponsorship of modules.

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