Hexham MP pleads for new North East technical school

MP Guy Opperman told Ministers the North East needs a new school dedicated to teaching manufacturing and engineering

Hexham MP Guy Opperman
Hexham MP Guy Opperman

The North East needs a new school dedicated to teaching young people skills for a successful career in manufacturing or engineering, Ministers have been told.

MP Guy Opperman said the region was “the cradle of manufacturing, engineering and much more” and was leading the nation’s economic recovery.

But speaking in the Commons, the Northumberland MP said action was needed to teach young people the technical and engineering skills required by many of the region’s employers.

He called for the creation of a University Technical College - a specialist school for students aged 14 to 19, which teaches technical skills - to serve Northumberland and Tyne and Wear.

Plans for a UTC in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, have already been presented to Ministers and the college could open in 2015 if they win Government approval.

But Mr Opperman, Conservative MP for Hexham, called for a second UTC, saying: “We need something in the northern part of the North East to address the skills gap between school and a job, which is central to fulfilling the manufacturing and engineering demands of our businesses.”

The MP also highlighted the increase in the number of apprenticeship places in the region - and praised The Journal for its Proud to Back Apprentices campaign.

Our campaign, backed by the North East Chamber of Commerce, the CBI, major employers such as Nissan and many more, aims to get at last half of the North East’s manufacturing businesses employing apprentices.

It’s estimated that around 27% of the 2,150 mainstream engineering companies in the region currently do.

Referring to Journal editor Brian Aitken, Mr Opperman told MPs: “I cannot praise enough the campaigns run by The Journal and my constituent, Brian Aitken, who has pushed the excellent Proud to Back Apprentices campaign in the past year.”

Mr Opperman highlighted the findings of an independent economic review chaired by Labour peer Lord Adonis, which published its report in April, adding: “We need to encourage more people to build vocational skills and not to stop doing so at 16. A key solution in the Adonis report is the creation of UTCs in the North East.

“The Adonis report demands four UTCs, but frankly I would take two. We have one in Durham, and I would very much like one in Northumberland or Tyne and Wear.”

He told MPs: “We are powering the country out of recession. We are the only region with a positive balance of payments. Give us the tools to do the job.”

Speaking in the same debate, Ian Lavery, Labour5 MP for Wansbeck, highlighted the need to ensure apprenticeships led to a permanent position.

Sir Alan Beith, Liberal Democrat MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed, said it was vital that further education linked with apprenticeships was available in rural parts of Northumberland.

Business Minister Matthew Hancock said: “We warmly welcome all applications for UTCs. We approve those proposed by the strongest groups in areas where new schools are needed most and those that have rigorous education and recruitment plans.”

He told Mr Opperman: “We are considering the south Durham UTC application, with others we have recently received, and we have interviewed the applicant group.”

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