A new school to train the next generation of much-needed engineers and manufacturers in the North East has been given the go-ahead.
Plans to build the region’s first university technical college (UTC) have been approved, creating a new engineering centre of excellence in the region.
The college will be based at Newton Aycliffe Business Park, in County Durham, training up to 600 people a year. Bosses hope to open the college in 2016 and help to plug a forecast skills gap of 8,500 posts.
Original proposals for an Aycliffe UTC were turned down in January when the Department for Education (DfE) favoured bids from London, Peterborough, Lincolnshire and Lancashire.
It is believed DfE ministers were not convinced the initial Aycliffe bid was ready. But after a beefed-up bid was submitted in May, ministers have finally agreed to back the new school.
The plans are supported by the University of Sunderland, train builder Hitachi Rail Europe and car parts maker Gestamp Tallent, with significant backing from transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, transport minister Stephen Hammond and Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson.
Hitachi will start building trains in Aycliffe in 2016 and wants skilled workers for its 730-job plant, with chassis manufacturer Gestamp planning to create 320 posts.
Keith Jordan, managing director of Hitachi Rail Europe, said: “I am delighted that Hitachi Rail Europe’s joint application with Sunderland University and Gestamp Tallent for a University Technical College has been given the go-ahead today.
“By attending our UTC, pupils will be able to gain a better understanding of the skills needed for a career in technology and explore whether this is a career path suited to their own abilities.
“For businesses in the North East and across the whole country, it is vital that we attract young people into technical and engineering professions from an early age.
“Working with them jointly with Gestamp Tallent and under the auspices of the University of Sunderland, we hope that we will engage their curiosity with regards to engineering, to find a career path that best suits them, while developing tomorrow’s workforce for Hitachi’s new train factory in Newton Aycliffe.”
Thousands more places offering specialist, technical education are to be created after proposals for seven new UTCs and four new studio schools were announced today by chancellor George Osborne.
The new schools, backed by local businesses and universities, will provide more than 5,000 places for 14 to 19-year-olds.
The schools will offer a more technical or vocational based education, developed in partnership with universities and employers including Jaguar Land Rover, Dyson and Kew Botanical Gardens.
Mr Osborne said: “UTCs are a key part of the Government’s long term economic plan because they help ensure young people have the right skills so they can maximise their potential.
“The new colleges will provide the next generation of British workers with the skills they need to secure the high tech jobs of the future.
“This is an excellent example of how we are delivering a sustainable and resilient recovery by laying the foundations for a brighter economic future for the UK.”