Plans for new employer-backed colleges unveiled

Major employers such as Jaguar Land Rover and British Airways have backed 15 new university technical colleges (UTC) aimed at boosting practical skills among young people, the government announced today.

The state-run colleges will offer students between the ages of 14 and 19 vocational training alongside academic learning, and are set to open in 2013-14.

Each UTC will be sponsored by a university and local employers to deliver a “business-like education” through their employer links (see list below).

Through this involvement students will have access to work placements, guest speakers, and “a curriculum designed by experts in the field,” the government said.

Many UTCs also run longer term times and operate business hours to help prepare students for the world of work.

For example, Jaguar Land Rover and the University of Warwick will back Warwick UTC, which will offer a business-like education to 640 pupils – working to business hours – and specialising in engineering with digital technology.

Heathrow Aviation Engineering UTC will specialise in aviation engineering with backing from its sponsors BAA, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and RAF Northolt, and Brunel University.

And Warner Brothers and Sony are linked to the Elstree UTC in Hertfordshire, which will offer specialist training in entertainment technologies and crafts, and electronic engineering and digital technologies.

Between them, the 15 new UTCs will support 20,000 young people into technical roles and secure the UK’s future talent pipeline.

Schools Minister Lord Hill said: “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.”

However, Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, warned that 14 was “too young” to decide what to do with your education or life.

“Separating ‘technical’ or ‘vocational’ education from mainstream schools will lead to a two-tier system with technical schools being seen as the poor cousin,” she said.

“The NUT has long argued that all students should have access to a broad and balanced curriculum within a single diploma framework which embraces all young people and does not label them as one thing or another so early on.”

Two UTCs already operating include the JCB Academy in Staffordshire and the Black Country UTC in Walsall, while three more are set to open this September in Birmingham, London and Bedfordshire.

Paul Champion

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Twitter: @blogapprentice
Skype: paulchampion31

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