University Technical Colleges, including Warrington’s dedicated engineering, science and cyber college, will be at the centre of skills development and economic growth following Covid-19, according to prominent employers and politicians.
UTC Warrington, like other UTCs, bridge the gap between industry and education with employers taking the lead with masterclasses, technical project days and work experience. The aim is to ensure that students leave the UTC with the right technical and employability skills that are being sought by industry.
Before Covid-19 presented its current challenges, employers were already finding that they could not source employees with desirable skills for their sector.
Gillian Keegan MP, Minister for Skills, says that University Technical Colleges will be at the centre of building skills following Covid-19:
“University Technical Colleges (UTCs) are well positioned to support the skills needs of local economies, placing employers at the heart of designing their specialist curriculum, mostly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects such as engineering and digital technologies. There are over 500 employers involved in the 48 open UTCs, including leading names such as JCB, Network Rail, Toyota, Siemens and the Royal Navy, helping to create 30,000 opportunities for young people to train as the engineers, technicians and scientists of the future.
UTCs will continue to play a role in building the skills capabilities the country needs now and in the future following COVID-19. An immediate focus for UTCs will be to help this year’s leavers use and build on their technical skills through becoming apprentices, as well as other paths to employment including progression to universities, or going straight into technical jobs.”
Despite the coronavirus challenges, this year’s leavers are already securing apprenticeships, including at Boeing and BMW. Ole Fletcher, who joined the UTC when it first opened in 2016, has secured an Aircraft Maintenance apprenticeship with Boeing to begin this September.
Ole, who will move to Wales later this year to take up the new role, says the UTC has helped him secure a dream career:
“I chose UTC Warrington as I wanted a more hands on approach to education and to study subjects that were relevant to the career I wanted to go into. I have always had a passion for the aviation industry and UTC has helped me plan my career path, as well as motivating me to continue following my career goal.
I will move to Cardiff to study at the International Centre of Aviation Training to start studying towards my aircraft mechanics licence. Boeing was looking for someone with a wide knowledge of engineering alongside practical experience. Upon offering the role they explained that they were amazed at how much I had learnt over the last few years of studying at UTC Warrington. The experience throughout my time at the UTC has allowed me to easily sell myself to employers.”
Alongside addressing the national skills gap in areas such as engineering, UTC Warrington is also providing a talent pipeline to organisations such as Fujitsu, Microsoft and GCHQ with a specialist cyber security study programme.
With 20 other UTCs, the UTC Cyber Group deliver specialist cyber education and build the capability to deliver a steady pipeline of young students with accelerated technical skills into apprenticeships, degree apprenticeships, and specialist degrees.
Recently, UTC Warrington was awarded £20,000 of funding from the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership to create a state-of-the-art cyber security and networking lab, which will be open to institutions and organisations across the community. The purpose being to simulate real-world challenges for students to develop their skills and relationships with industry leaders.
Tim Chapman, Lead for Endpoint Protection and STEM Ambassador at Fujitsu UK, says that they will continue to invest in local students to ensure they have the right skills to see through the challenges of Covid-19:
“Fujitsu has always had a close relationship with UTC Warrington and opened the Fujitsu Innovation Hub under the Fujitsu Ambassador Programme in 2016. This has provided access to best-in-class technology ensuring students, learners and the community are being supported in receiving the best technical education to prepare them for future employment opportunities.
With the development of the UTC Cyber Group, Fujitsu partnered with UTC Warrington to deliver workshops in support of the curriculum. Through this partnership Fujitsu hope to create further opportunities for the students and the local community by addressing the needs of the economy, locally and nationally, through developing a technology ready workforce built on a strong foundation of digital.
Fujitsu has already invested heavily in the region with the recent development of our Warrington offices. Fujitsu recognises that digitalisation is expected to rapidly drive new products and processes to promote innovation that addresses real life challenges. Fujitsu is committed to a co-creation approach and to creating new value together with our education institutions. To shape a different future, we need to blend business expertise and digital technology, ensuring this helps underpin the right skills and expertise being delivered through our education systems.”
Andy Carter, MP for Warrington South, says that the commitment from employers to work with students at UTC Warrington is crucial to growing the economy post-coronavirus.
He said: “Warrington UTC have developed a fantastic track record of putting technical education and skills at the heart of the education offer.
They provide a critical link between the world of education and the world of work, training young people in the technical entrepreneurial skills and personal and collaborative skills needed to succeed in the modern workplace.
We have a productivity issue in the North, and investment into colleges like our own in Warrington is a positive step to levelling up and allowing local economies to thrive.”