UTC Sheffield’s Response: Northern Powerhouse ‘Educating the North’ Report

UTC Sheffield has welcomed a new report, published today, that calls for more employer involvement in education and technical training.

Educating the North: Driving Ambition Across the Powerhouse makes several recommendations including calling for Northern employers to commit to providing an inspirational experience of the world of work for more than 900,000 young people every year

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership report also calls for an education system capable of delivering a skilled workforce in the North for the North, and states that the North could become a world-leading centre for degree apprenticeships, delivering a genuine mix of vocational and academic education.

Here, Executive Principal Nick Crew, and two leading employer partners of UTC Sheffield, give their views on the report.

The education perspective:

Nick Crew, Executive Principal of UTC Sheffield, said:

“We welcome the report recommendations calling for Northern employers to commit to providing an inspirational experience of the world of work to young people every year. University Technical Colleges (UTCs) are technical schools created to reflect the skills needs of regional employers, supporting economic growth and employment. Working with employers underpins UTC Sheffield’s entire approach to education.

“UTC Sheffield specialises in advanced engineering and manufacturing; creative and digital media; computing, health sciences and sport science because there is an urgent need from regional employers within those sectors for high level creative, scientific and technical skills. Around 70 employers support our five specialisms at two campuses – UTC Sheffield City Centre and UTC Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park. The UTC curriculum is developed with leading universities and global as well as regional employers. Students develop technical, personal and professional skills including the right attitude for the world of work – 100% of last year’s students progressed to a positive destination after completing their courses.

Our students are able to study academic qualifications (GCSEs and A Levels) as well as technical subjects simultaneously. They learn how to apply academic theory to practice, and to problem solve. Employers have helped to design our building and they support our curriculum by setting projects and providing work experience. Students learn from industry experts in specialist high tech industry facilities. As a result, they progress onto high quality apprenticeships, employment and secure places at top universities including the Russell Group institutions. For example, two students who graduated from the UTC last year have gone on to study degrees in engineering at Cambridge University. Others have gone on to degree apprenticeships at Boeing and BP.

“Employers support us because they want to train the next generation of talent for the future success of their sectors and the region, contributing to job creation. We also get great backing from our sponsors Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and The Sheffield College. Together, we are playing our part in addressing some of the challenges highlighted in the Educating the North report.”

The employers’ perspectives:

Dan Fleetcroft, Engineering Design Director of Performance Engineered Solutions Ltd and Chair of Governors at UTC Sheffield City Centre campus, said:

“We certainly understand the challenges of finding suitably skilled engineers to meet the capability and capacity demands of our business and fuel Performance Engineered Solutions’ continuing growth. Right from the formation of our company, we struggled to find engineers with the knowledge, skills and attitude we required and recognised that this was going to be a significant risk to our business. This is our motivation for getting involved with UTC Sheffield – we want to help shape the curriculum and train the next generation of engineers, our future employees, with the skills that we need. Addressing these challenges will be key to the success of our business, region and country, and I am certain we will not be alone in benefitting from a workforce more fit for purpose.  I think the call for employers to help inspire and prepare the next generation for the world of work is essential regardless of where they are based in the UK.”

Richard Wright, Executive Director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, and Chair of The Sheffield UTC Multi Academy Trust, added:

“It is ironic that at a time when we have low unemployment in this country, many employers are telling us, at the Chamber, that they cannot get people with the right skills. This study shows that the north of England has a bigger problem than the south, but we should not decouple educational attainment from underinvestment in so many other areas like infrastructure and business investment because they are interlinked. We have large areas of deprivation in the north where health and education attainment are clearly seen to be below the average. Large city further education colleges and University Technical Colleges (UTCs) are often at the forefront of addressing these challenges yet are often chronically underfunded and judged on one-size fits all Ofsted or Progress 8 measures. We have to get better at addressing what the real customers – cities, employers as well as the students – need.”

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