University Technical Colleges have a vital role to play supporting young people, employers and the economy’s long-term recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
That’s the message from Nick Crew, Executive Principal of The Sheffield UTC Academy Trust, who spoke at a virtual meeting of the UK Parliament’s Education Select Committee on Thursday 11 June.
One of six chiefs from some of the country’s leading UTCs who attended, and speaking following the meeting, he said: “We are proud of what we are achieving in Sheffield City Region training young people in the high level technical and employability skills that employers need for growth.”
He added: “This is a critical time given current technical skills shortages and wider challenges facing the economy, and it was good to share our experiences at a national level with the committee.”
The Education Select Committee is conducting an inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on education and children’s services. Its wider remit is to scrutinise the work of the Department for Education, covering children’s social care, schools, colleges, early years and higher education.
The virtual meeting was chaired by the Rt Hon. Robert Halfron MP and attended by Principals from The Sheffield UTC Academy Trust, Ron Dearing UTC, JCB Academy, Energy Coast UTC, South Durham UTC and Activate Learning Education Trust, representing Reading, Heathrow, Swindon and Oxfordshire UTCs, as well as Lord Baker, Chairman of Baker Dearing Educational Trust, which oversees the University Technical College programme in England.
During the meeting, the Principals discussed the differences between UTCs and traditional schools, how staff and students have adapted to online learning during the pandemic and how the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills UTC students specialise in will be in greater demand in future.
UTCs are government funded technical schools that provide academic and technical qualifications to match the skills needs of regional employers, supporting economic growth and employment. There are 48 UTCs nationally supported by more than 400 employers and universities.
Sheffield is the only city outside of London to have two UTCs, which are both Ofsted graded ‘good’. Both have also received national recognition from the Schools, Students and Teachers (SSAT) network for being among highest performing schools in England for technical learning.
Lord Baker, Chairman of Baker Dearing Educational Trust, said: “UTCs offer choice for many young people, by providing a unique approach to education which meets the changing needs of students and employers in the 21st Century. Indeed, the Covid-19 crisis has reminded us all of the value of STEM-related practical skills.”
He continued: “Where would our country be without the capabilities of scientists and technicians, and the ingenuity of engineering and digital professionals? UTCs nurture an interest in and passion for all aspects of STEM. As economies adjust to the ‘new normal’ following the Covid-19 crisis, UTCs have never been more relevant in building the skills this country needs.”
Students choose a technical specialism and work on employer-led projects. They complete technical qualifications alongside GCSE and A Levels.
UTC Sheffield City Centre specialises in engineering and advanced manufacturing and creative and digital media.
UTC Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park specialises in computing, health sciences and sport science.
Both UTCs are equipped with cutting edge industry standard facilities and backed by 70 employers who include AES Seal, Bauer Media Group, Fernite, Festo, Finger Industries, Henry Boot Construction, Hive, Inspec Solutions, Lavender International, Rolls-Royce, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield Live, the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Siemens and Sumo Digital.
Young people can join the UTC in Year 9 at the age of 13 or in Year 12 at the age of 16. Places are still available for this September 2020. Apply now at www.utcsheffield.org.uk
UTC Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park is holding two virtual transition events on Thursday 18 June. Visit https://www.utcsheffield.org.uk/events/