A Pioneering approach to help bridge the skills gap currently facing the country’s engineering industry has been launched by a North East college.
South Tyneside College, which has the country’s highest number of entrants for engineering and technology courses, has been given the green light to create England’s first engineering school for children as young as 14.
The college has joined forces with nearby St Wilfred’s RC College to offer students Ebac qualifications instead of GCSEs as well as a vocational qualification in advanced manufacturing, engineering or computer science.
Former education secretary Lord Baker, who is also the founder of university technology colleges (UTCs), has given the ‘Career College’ in South Tyneside his full backing.
It has also been given the seal of approval from the Department for Education and will be operational by September 2015.
The college’s principal, Alison Maynard, said: “We’re trying to break down the historical divide between academic and vocational education.
“If I was advising any students going forward I would recommend they look seriously at vocational options because there are fabulous job opportunities.
“We know that there are a large number of engineering and manufacturing professionals due to retire and we will be left in short supply of the required skills needed for these industries.
“Of our engineering and technology students, 92% of them are in full-time work. Our students can pick their jobs and just about pick their salaries.
“The demand is there, we just need to get people engaged from a young age.”
Career Colleges are a new concept in England, with only two others in operation at Bromley and Oldham.
Students, aged between 14 an 19, will combine core curriculum subjects with a vocational specialism and hands-on projects. Further opportunities will include apprenticeships and higher education.
Government business boss Vince Cable highlighted the forward-thinking work of South Tyneside College in a speech praising UK education innovators.
The business secretary named the college to delegates at last year’s Association of College’s annual conference.
Ms Maynard added: “It is our aim to create genuine vocational pathways that take young people from subject choices at age 14 to full professional competence as adults.
“In doing so, we can make vocational education truly valued and banish the notion that it somehow serves to mop up people who don’t fancy an academic education.
“South Tyneside’s Career College is about making vocational education the peer of academic education, to offer good opportunities for every prospective student.”