The government has given the green light for a Northern Futures University Technical College (UTC) in a bid skill up young people in information technology and healthcare sciences.
Unveiled by the chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne, the Northern Futures UTC aims to be open in September 2017 and is targeted at students aged between 14 and 18. The curriculum will be designed to equip students with skills for "careers of the future".
Students aged between 14 and 16 will spend 60% of their time studying the national curriculum and 40% on technology-based projects. Those aged between 16 and 18 will spend 40% of their time on the national curriculum and 60% on technology-based projects.
A number of sites in the centre of Newcastle are being considered for the college's location.
IT employers involved in the UTC so far are Accenture, Sage, HP. It is also supported by Dynamo, the north-east IT cluster. Employers will have input to the curriculum, will provide mentors and will set up business projects for students, including work placements and job interviews with sponsor companies.
Accenture’s Newcastle delivery centre managing director and chair of Northern Future’s proposer group, Bob Paton, said Accenture believe practical, vocational education is essential to preparing young people for technology-based careers, which is why it supports the UTC movement.
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“The Northern Futures UTC will be a great asset to the region. It will inspire students to develop technology skills, thereby creating a pool of skilled, work-ready young people keen to pursue careers in high-growth sectors in the region,” he said.
Baker Dearing Educational Trust chairman Lord Baker said the UTC movement is gaining momentum and is delighted to see that more young people in the north-east will be able to benefit from a UTC education. "More than 600 employers, both large and small, back UTCs because they can see they make sense,” he said.
Baker said Northern Futures UTC is the second school to be announced in the north-east and joins South Durham UTC, which will open in 2016.
“Our challenge now is to ensure young people and their parents have access to the information and advice they need to take advantage of this exciting and important technical provision,” he said.
The north-east IT sector is currently estimated to employ more than 32,000 people.
UTC a significant boost for north-east
Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Leonard Fenwick said the announcement of the UTC is a significant boost for the north-east.
“It provides a great opportunity for young people to be directly involved in proactive programmes aimed at underpinning their personal development, skills, knowledge and confidence to then progress through to quality employment and all this entails,” he said.
This UTC will play a vital role in meeting skill needs in two vital employment sectors, IT and healthcare sciences, where we already have great strengths and wonderful opportunities for growth
North East Local Enterprise Partnership, Roy Sandbach
Arnab Basu, chair of the Academic Health Science Network North East and North Cumbria – a founding partner of Northern Futures – said the UTC will benefit both the young people and the industry in the region by providing "highly focused, employer-led education, which will make the students better contributors to the growing IT and health science sectors".
University of Sunderland pro vice-chancellor Gary Holmes said the university is proud to sponsor the development.
“The UTC will give young people the skills, qualifications, experiences and confidence to enter rewarding and exciting areas of the regional economy," he said. "The skills gap in our region is a real threat to prosperity and UTCs bring together the right regional interests to address that challenge head-on.”
Meanwhile, Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes said the city's reputation as a hotbed of expertise in digital technology is growing fast.
“It’s vital that we prepare now for the jobs of the future and secure the benefits for young people from this region," he said.
"I want to pay tribute to the business leaders who have championed this vision for a University Technical College, and look forward to seeing the first cohort of young people taking their first step towards an exciting career in a flourishing north-east digital sector.”
North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) innovation board chair Roy Sandbach said he was delighted with the annoucement.
"Driving more and better jobs is at the heart of the North East LEP economic strategy," he said. "This UTC will play a vital role in meeting skill needs in two vital employment sectors, IT and healthcare sciences, where we already have great strengths and wonderful opportunities for growth.”
The UTC also aims to focus on encouraging more girls to consider technology as a career.