A pioneering, employer-driven learning institution sponsored by Spencer Group and other leading businesses has won Government approval.
Chancellor George Osborne announced the go ahead for the Ron Dearing University Technical College (UTC) in Hull, which aims to enable local young people to thrive in the digital economy and provide employers with the advanced technical skills they require.
The UTC will cater for students aged 14-19 and specialise in digital technology and mechatronics – a combination of mechanical engineering, computing and electronics as used in the design and development of manufacturing techniques. The focus of the UTC will complement and supplement existing education and skills provision in the city and region.
The UTC is named after Lord Ron Dearing of Kingston upon Hull, who was born and educated in the city and went on to become a senior civil servant and Chairman of the Post Office. His Dearing Report of 1997 changed the landscape of higher education in the UK and Lord Dearing developed the UTCs model with former Education Secretary Lord Baker. He died in 2009.
The Ron Dearing UTC has been championed by Hull West and Hessle MP Alan Johnson, a former Education Secretary. It is sponsored by the University of Hull and leading employers – Siemens, which is investing in world-class wind turbine manufacturing and assembly facilities in Hull; specialist engineering business Spencer Group; online electrical retailer Ebuyer; and local communications provider KC. The UTC is also supported by Hull City Council.
Spencer Group Executive Chairman Charlie Spencer OBE, who is Chair of the Project Steering Group, said: “The UTC will unlock Hull’s engineering potential, build on the investment by Siemens in wind turbine facilities and capitalise upon the upsurge in digital and renewable energy technologies within the city and wider region.
“The time to train in digital technology is now and the UTC will offer the very best opportunities for young people to develop high-value digital and engineering skills.”
Siemens Hull Project Director Finbarr Dowling said: “Siemens is a strong supporter of the UTC movement because we believe practical, vocational education is vital in preparing the next generation for careers in UK engineering, technology and manufacturing.
“In Hull the Ron Dearing UTC will foster enthusiasm for engineering and digital technology among students and create an augmented pool of skilled, work-ready young people for careers in high-growth sectors for the city and region.”
Ebuyer Managing Director Stuart Carlisle said: “We have an active, successful graduate placement programme and we’re now looking forward to developing home-grown talent through the UTC by providing work-related, real-life projects for young people.
“We believe this UTC will inspire students to learn and produce a pipeline of young business and technology savvy students who will eventually help develop our business and others in the area.”
Gary Young, Managing Director of KC, which is investing tens of millions of pounds in a UK-leading super-fast broadband network, said: “It’s vital to Hull and the Humber’s plans for growth and transformation that our young people are work-ready and equipped with the right digital and new world skills.
“We are looking forward to helping to make that happen by playing our part in the formation and ongoing development and success of the UTC.”
Alan Johnson MP said: “There is a profound need for mechanical, electrical and telecommunications engineering skills in Hull and wider region which the UTC will help to address.
“The UTC will also be a fitting legacy for Ron Dearing. I knew him well, both as Chairman of the Post Office when I was a senior union representative and through his work on education for the Blair Government. The Ron Dearing UTC will be a marvellous tribute to a great man and an enormous benefit to our city and its citizens.”
Professor Calie Pistorius, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hull said: “The UTC will help current employers and investors in the Humber to access the talented people that they need and to connect young people with career opportunities, particularly in the new energy-related industries that are developing.
“The university will ensure that UTC students have access to a top-class education, projects based on real research and work scenarios, and mentors both from business and from the university.”
Councillor Stephen Brady, Leader of Hull City Council, said: “This is great news for Hull. The Ron Dearing UTC will give our young people the chance to gain real, marketable skills that will boost their employability – and with our evolving economy, they’re skills that we will be able to keep in the city.
“This is yet another example of how we are transforming Hull and the Humber region and providing the next generation of our workforce with the training they will need to take advantage of the great opportunities ahead.”
The Ron Dearing UTC is scheduled to open in September 2016 and will have a capacity of 600 students. A number of sites in Hull city centre are being considered as the location.
From ages 14 to 16 all students will study English, maths and computer science, with at least one, and probably two, other sciences and the option to study art and design and/or French. In the sixth form, they will have the opportunity to develop their preferred specialism further and acquire the further qualifications they need to progress either to university or higher level apprenticeships.
The UTC will adopt a business-like approach to learning, with a longer school year and school day. It will foster innovation, creativity and entrepreneurialism among its students, encouraging them to develop real-world solutions to real-world business issues faced by the employer sponsors.
The employer backers will make major, practical commitments to the UTC, including significant input into curriculum development; providing one-to-one mentors; setting business projects for students; providing high-quality work placements; and guaranteeing job interviews with sponsor companies.
Those UTC students who wish to go on to higher education will also have a guaranteed conditional offer from the University of Hull if they apply to study engineering.
A key objective of the UTC is to reach girls who are under-represented on engineering and technical courses and within these areas of employment.