More students are securing top apprenticeships in Warrington than ever before and it’s largely down to more institutions, including the town’s University Technical College, focusing on vocational learning, say Warrington South’s MP and local businesses.

Latest figures from The House of Commons Library show that 742,400 people across England were participating in an apprenticeship in 2018/2019. Over 1,700 people started apprenticeships across Warrington North and Warrington South, according to the Department for Education. Since the opening of engineering specialist college UTC Warrington in September 2016, the number of young people entering apprenticeships in that sector has risen to become the third most popular industry to enter in the local area.

The success of the UTC programme of employability and career-readiness has seen more students entering higher and degree level apprenticeships than ever before; in 2019, the percentage of students leaving the UTC to enter such career opportunities was over six times the national average.

The UTC model is in operation across England and has even started to be replicated abroad. However, it is employers in Warrington and the North West who are turning to the UTC to have a first pick of their future recruits. One of them organisations is NSAN, based in Warrington, and works with nuclear companies in the region. They have been working with the University Technical College following the college’s ongoing successful relationship with companies such as Sellafield Ltd and Wood plc.

Nicola Merriman, Operations Manager at NSAN, said that the partnership is bringing a fantastic offer to young people and employers in the area.

She said: NSAN are delighted to be working with UTC Warrington and supporting our local members to access the fantastic facilities the UTC has to offer. Apprenticeships are critical to meeting the future skills needs of the nuclear industry, and it’s great to see the regular opportunities UTC students are provided with to work with local nuclear companies to develop their knowledge and skills.  The Nuclear Sector Deal has a dedicated work-strand  around ‘exciting the next generation’ and we are genuinely excited about the work being undertaken by our member companies like Warrington UTC to celebrate the diversity and value that apprenticeships bring to our sector and the fantastic careers our sector offers.”

Since 2010, over 20,000 people have started an apprenticeship in Warrington. With lucrative degree programmes and opportunity for professional development, apprenticeships are seeing a rise in popularity amongst young people. George Garner who attended the Warrington UTC said that without the college he wouldn’t have secured his role.

He said: “UTC Warrington played a key part in helping me to secure my apprenticeship. During my two years at the UTC, I was able to develop key skills through theoretical and practical learning and the college also supported me through a two year apprenticeship at Rock Oil; this provided me with core industry knowledge and also allowed for further professional development which has been essential in my role at Cavendish Nuclear.”

The town centre college which opened in 2016 was awarded a Good rating by Ofsted in 2019, with high praise for its employer-led engagement with students, the focus on the values of excellence and kindness, and the commitment shown by students to their technical education and careers.

Andy Carter, MP for Warrington South, visited the UTC in December. He says that apprenticeships are key to the success of skills development in the town.

He said: “So many employers have told me how valuable Apprenticeships are for recruiting new entrants, the real winners are those entering the jobs market with the opportunity to learn and earn with a great employer.   

UTC Warrington are play a crucial role in linking employers and students and I’ve seen for myself the way lessons are tailored to make them relevant for future careers while providing a great all round experience.”

Lee Barber, Principal of the UTC, says that having employers regularly approaching the college to recruit students shows that the programme is having a positive impact on companies in the local and sub-regional area.

He said: “In the summer last year, I had several prominent STEM employers contact me and my colleagues at the UTC asking to meet with our students to offer them places on their degree apprenticeship programmes. They do so because they recognise the important of our offer to young people – access to high-status businesses, alongside a great technical education. Our employer partners have the advantage of securing some of the best engineers, civil engineers and cyber specialists in the local area.”