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Government gives green light to North East’s employer-led University Technical College

A pioneering, employer-driven learning institution aimed at putting the North East at the centre of the UK’s science and technology industry today won Government approval.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, today announced the go-ahead for the Northern Futures University Technical College (UTC). The UTC will offer the North East’s young people opportunities to succeed in today’s science and technology economy, whilst providing employers with the advanced technical skills they require.

The North East is a vibrant region with some thriving businesses and sectors. However, a focus on skills development is needed to help sectors such as Information Technology and Healthcare Sciences to continue to expand and create more jobs. The Northern Futures UTC is designed to support the growth of these sectors.

Northern Futures UTC will cater for students aged 14-18 specialising in Information Technology (IT) and Healthcare Sciences.Its curriculum will help young people develop the right skills for “careers of the future”, while complementing and supplementing existing education and skills provision in the North East.

The North East has a hugely successful and increasingly prominent Information Technology (IT) sector which employs over 32,000 people. Within Healthcare Science there continue to be many technical and scientific breakthroughs, often originating in the North East region. As a result, treatment is becoming more technically specialised and there is an increased demand for skilled workers.

Both sectors are continuing to create many new employment opportunities which are entirely consistent with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s Strategic Economic Plan for the North East – “More and Better Jobs”.

Northern Futures UTC will play a key role in ensuring that there are enough young people with the right skills available to join both the IT and Health Sciences sectors.

The UTC is sponsored by the University of Sunderland and leading regional employers. From an IT perspective these include Accenture, which has a Technology Delivery Centre in the region; Sage, the only FTSE 100 UK technology company; and HP, which has a Regional Delivery Centre in the North East. Northern Futures UTC is also supported by Dynamo, the North East IT Cluster.

For Healthcare Science,the UTC has support from a number of healthcare organisations and local SMEs. These include The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, the Academic Health Sciences Network North East and North Cumbria, and specialist SMEs such as Kromek and PolyPhotonix.

Newcastle City Council and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership are also supporters of Northern Futures UTC.

Bob Paton, MD of Accenture’s Newcastle Delivery Centre and Chair of the Northern Future’s Proposer Group said: “Accenture is a strong supporter of the UTC movement because we believe practical, vocational education is essential to preparing young people in the North East for technology-based careers.

“The Northern Futures UTC will be a great asset to the region. It will inspire students to develop technology skills, thereby creating a pool of skilled, work-ready young people keen to pursue careers in high-growth sectors in the region.”

Professor Roy Sandbach, Chair of the North East LEP Innovation Board said: “Driving more and better jobs is at the heart of the North East LEP economic strategy. This UTC will play a vital role in meeting skill needs in two vital employment sectors, IT and Healthcare Sciences, where we already have great strengths and have wonderful opportunities for growth. We have been directly involved with the bid and are very happy with today’s announcement.”

Lord Baker, Chairman of Baker Dearing Educational Trust, said: “The UTC movement is gaining momentum and I am delighted to see that more young people in the North East will be able to benefit from an UTC education. More than 600 employers, both large and small, back UTCs because they can see they make sense.

“Northern Futures UTC is the second school to be announced in the North East and joins South Durham UTC which will open in 2016.

“Our challenge now is to ensure that young people and their parents have access to the information and advice they need to take advantage of this exciting and important technical provision.”

Sir Leonard Fenwick, CBE, Chief Executive of the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “This is a significant boost for the North East and provides a great opportunity for young people to be directly involved in proactive programmes aimed at underpinning their personal development, skills, knowledge and confidence to then progress through to quality employment and all this entails.”

Dr. Arnab Basu MBE, Chair of the Academic Health Science Network North East&North Cumbria (a founding partner of Northern Futures) said: “I am delighted with the news – the UTC will benefit both the young people and the industry in the region by providing highly focused employer-led education which will make the students better contributors to the growing IT and health science sectors in our region.”

Professor Gary Holmes, Pro Vice-Chancellor University of Sunderland,said:“The university is proud to sponsor this important development. The UTC will give young people the skills, qualifications, experiences and confidence to enter rewarding and exciting areas of the regional economy. The skills gap in our region is a real threat to prosperity and UTCs bring together the right regional interests to address that challenge head-on.”

Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council, said: “Newcastle’s reputation as a hotbed of expertise in digital technology is growing fast. It’s vital that we prepare now for the jobs of the future, and secure the benefits for young people from this region. I want to pay tribute to the business leaders who have championed this vision for a University Technical College, and look forward to seeing the first cohort of young people taking their first step towards an exciting career in a flourishing North East digital sector. ”

The Northern Futures UTC is scheduled to open in September 2017. A number of sites in Newcastle city centre are being considered as the location.

From ages 14 to 16 students will spend60% of their time studying the National Curriculum and 40% on technology based projects. From ages 16 to 18 students will devote 40% of their time to the National Curriculum and 60% to technology based projects.

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 live 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.The region’s businesses are invited to support and help make the UTC a success.

A key objective of the UTC is to reach girls who are under-represented ontechnical courses and within these areas of employment.