The Government approved on 29th May the construction of 15 new University Technical Colleges (UTCs) to open within the next two years, a move which has been well received by industry stakeholders.
These colleges are for teenagers aged 14-19 and specialise in technical studies, with the sponsorship of a local university. They offer full time courses which combine the academic and practical sides of various trades and employers are involved from the very start in shaping the curriculum to suit the needs of the local industry. Almost 300 firms are supporting this new wave of colleges providing unique recruitment opportunities.
Many commentators have called this an excellent step forward in England’s vocational education framework and the plans should see UTCs increase by almost double in the next two years, up to 34 institutions. With university fees having increased dramatically recently, UTCs can provide an alternative option for teenagers to forge a career path and get valuable experience. Many have commented on the importance of encouraging vocations, which have to a certain extent been lost as an option for bright teenagers in the myriad of degree options available.
Of particular interest to the property industry, a new construction technical college will open in the West Midlands, supported by CITB–ConstructionSkills, Walsall College and the University of Wolverhampton. With further active support from big construction players Wilmott Dixon, Balfour Beatty, Morgan Sindall, Hewden Stewart and Barhale Construction, the college plans to offer a curriculum based upon construction and the built environment as well as the use of information technology, sustainability and green technologies.
The new college in Sheffield was one of the first to agree a construction contract and will be developed by Wates for £8.5m. The hope is that many more will follow soon and that the new wave of colleges will help strengthen the foundations of strong economic growth in the future. In particular, British firms have begun to internationalise to greater levels and export construction professional services (CPS) in recent years. By training the current generation in marketable skills, this valuable export could be better exploited.
Lord Kenneth Baker, Chairman of BDT (Baker Dearing Trust – which is leading the introduction of technical colleges), commented:
“The Coalition Government continues to show its commitment to these new colleges for 14-19 year olds by expanding the national network.”
The UTC movement is backed by major players from British industry, with employers across all regions pledging their support.”
Fourteen UTCs are aiming for opening dates in 2013 and 2014. These are: Aylesbury; Bristol; Burnley; Daventry; Greenwich; Liverpool; Newcastle; Nottingham; Plymouth; Reading; Sheffield; Silverstone; Southwark; and Wigan.