UTC South Durham hosted a successful business breakfast at Hitachi Rail Europe’s new rail facility in Newton Aycliffe.
The £10m UTC – an engineering and advanced manufacturing Centre of Excellence backed by Hitachi Rail Europe, Gestamp Tallent and the University of Sunderland – will be the first in the North-East, and is on schedule to be completed by September.
Around 50 businesses attended a business breakfast as principal Tom Dower updated guests on the progress of the UTC.
Members of the UTC employer engagement panel – including Hitachi, Gestamp, Hydram, Husqvarna and Darlington-based Cummins – also gave presentations on the role they’re playing in taking on work placements.
Gestamp training controller David Pearson (pictured) told Aycliffe Today: “We’ve long been on our soap box about education and not getting into students, not being able to influence their choices and getting them involved in engineering and manufacturing.
“The UTC is asking us to get involved and to influence that, so it’s too good an opportunity to miss.
“It gives an opportunity for the students at the UTC to go into a number of businesses and see what’s available in the local area – so why would you not get involved?”
Dower says he’s delighted to have a strong group of businesses all tuned in to what the UTC is all about.
“It’s a very strong group,” he told us.
“It’s great to have the big names involved, but I’m equally as interested in getting smaller companies involved, because there are SMEs who don’t necessarily have the experience or confidence in recruiting, or in taking someone on every year, but there’s a real part for us to play in helping them as well.
“We’ve got about 50 companies that we’re talking to at the moment. Not all of them will join up as formal partners, but it’s fantastic to have the dialogue we’re having with so many businesses already.”
Dower also revealed that 170 students have already signed up to join the UTC for studies when it opens later this year – including 110 from year 12 60 from year 10.
They come from 28 different schools from across the North-East, including County Durham, Darlington, North Yorkshire, Teesside, Sunderland and Tyneside.
Pearson added: “I was a little bit concerned with the year 10, I think it’s a big jump for people, particularly with the UTC’s present circumstances where there’s no building yet and no staff – just Tom.
“So to get 60 year 10 students, 13 and 14-year-olds, to leave their comfort zone of school already is a big statement.
“These young people tell me they’re worried about the lack of investment in the technology side at school, which is why they want to come here. They’re interested in science, technology, engineering and manufacturing, but their current schools don’t give them the opportunity to progress in those areas as much as they’d like to.
“They realise there’s a great opportunity here for them at UTC South Durham.”