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Institutes of Technology launch to upskill adults in tech careers

Up to 4,000 working professionals will be trained in subjects such as cyber security and agricultural robotics to plug the national skills gap

The UK government’s Institutes of Technology (IoTs) will be launching in October with the remit of rapidly reskilling up to 4,000 working adults across the UK as part of efforts to address the current tech skills gap.

Ten IoTs will be up and running as of October 2021 nationwide, and will offer courses to people aged 19 and over in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects such as artificial intelligence (AI), digitisation of manufacturing, digital construction, agricultural robotics, and cyber security.

The IoTs will have partnerships with local employers to ensure the courses address existing skills gaps. Priority will be given to those employed locally to the centres, in industries such as digital or healthcare, so that students can progress on to higher skilled, higher paid jobs in their area.

The content will be delivered through a blend of remote and in-person study, with length varying between 50 and 138 hours, as a means to provide flexibility to students so they can fit the training around their lives.

“Making sure more people can train and develop at any stage of their life to secure high-skilled, high-paid jobs is at the heart of our plans,” said minister for further and higher education, Michelle Donelan, adding that the courses will contribute to “level up” work opportunities across the UK.

To illustrate the work that will be carried out by the IoTs, the government mentioned the courses for the medical technology and engineering sectors are provided by the Black Country and Marches Institute of Technology. The programme will enable medical engineering professionals to acquire new skills in using, calibrating and maintaining anaesthetic and operating theatre equipment. Staff are signing up from local employers such as Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust.

The IoTs were launched in 2019 under initiatives to plug the UK technology skills gap. With a total budget of £6.4m, the network is designed to drive collaboration between between further education (FE), providers, higher education, providers or universities and employers to deliver higher technical education and training in STEM subjects.

The first wave of IoTs, which included FE providers, around 60 employers and 18 universities, were selected through a government-led competition where a lead provider, an FE college or university, worked with local employers and other stakeholders to create an IoT for their area.

Providers in that first wave were announced in April 2019. The second wave of competition was launched in February 2020 and was open to any area not currently covered by an IoT.

New IoTs include London City, led by Siemens, Port of London Authority, London & Regional Properties Newham College, and Queen Mary University, focusing on the areas of transport, engineering, infrastructure, energy and digital. The South Central IoT – led by companies including Microsoft, KPMG and McAfee with Milton Keynes College, Activate Learning and Cranfield University – focuses on areas such as cyber security, software development, programming and coding and data analytics.

The network is part of the government’s goal to boost the uptake and quality of Higher Technical Qualifications, that sit between A-levels and degrees, as a progression route for young people or adults looking to retrain and gain skills in areas such as STEM. From September 2022, the government will begin to roll out the recently approved Higher Technical Qualifications, starting with Digital, followed by Construction and Health in 2023.

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