By Martin Walker
The man heading up the proposed University Technical College for Newton Aycliffe says they have to “break the mould” to attract young people into engineering.
Sunderland University, with support from Gestamp Tallent and Hitachi Rail Europe, won a bid to launch an advanced engineering and manufacturing centre of excellence for Aycliffe – the first to be given approval in the North-East – which will open in 2016.
The South Durham UTC will take in up to 150 students a year aged 14 up to 18 from within a 15-mile radius of Aycliffe, including Darlington, parts of Teesside, South Durham and Sedgefield.
It’s expected to take between 10 and 15 young people a year from both Greenfield College and Woodham Academy.
The university’s Pro Vice Chancellor, Professor Gary Holmes, spoke to local companies at Aycliffe Business Park Community’s news and networking event on Friday.
“The biggest challenge is going to be getting the message across about what the UTC actually is,” he told businesses.
“The UTC model is relatively unknown in this region. Mention it to people and they hardly know what we’re talking about.
“We’ve got to get over what it is we’re trying to do here. We’re trying to provide the basic, but high-quality GCSE level, so every youngster will study English, Maths, Science, one Humanities subject and the option of taking a language.
“40% of their curriculum will be in advanced manufacturing and engineering. When they go into the sixth form, they’ll do A-levels or BTecs in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths).
“It’s about high unemployment and youth unemployment versus a massive skills shortage in engineering and manufacturing.
“It’s not rocket science, we need to get more young people understanding that there is a well remunerated, rewarding and successful career here for you at every level, from semi-skilled to graduate engineers, in an industry that can only grow in this region.
“Yet so many young people are locked into the X Factor, instant gratification culture.
“We need to break that mould and get the message to the current year 8s to year 10s who’ll be our first intake that this is a great future for you.”
Professor Holmes also revealed he expects to appoint a project management team to take the development forward by the end of October, with construction expected to start in spring 2015.
Find out more about Aycliffe Business Park’s regular meetings and how to get involved by clicking here.