The North East STEM Foundation (NESF) has launched a campaign for the creation of a University Technical College (UTC) on Teesside and is encouraging businesses to back its plan, which will be put to the government in the coming months.
The NESF has initially secured support from 20 businesses, including the high-profile employers such as Wilton Universal Group, Durata and Willmott Dixon (see full list below), and is encouraging more to get behind the plan.
The collaborations are a crucial component of the NESF’s ‘cradle to career’ initiative, designed to provide students with a heightened focus on future career opportunities by fostering partnerships between STEM students and local businesses in Teesside.
UTCs are government-funded institutions, which work closely with local universities and employers to offer education in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), alongside the usual GCSEs and A Levels. They aim to bring the educational system into the 21st century by catering for the new technological age.
More than 50 UTCs have opened across England, educating circa 19,000 students, and supported by more than 400 employers and universities.
This further UTC would follow in the footsteps of the other two in the North East, based in Newcastle and Newton Aycliffe.
The NESF’s aim is to ensure every young person, regardless of background, has an opportunity to study STEM subjects in a high-quality, modern environment supported by employers, futureproofing both industry and the local economy by delivering highly skilled, innovative workers. The charity does this by inspiring and attracting future generations into the sector via STEM outreach programmes, removing financial barriers to allow all children to access STEM education and by creating more high-quality STEM focused environments at key stage 3, 4 and 5.
Tees Valley is currently experiencing a vibrant industrial landscape, amplified by substantial investments and initiatives. Tees Valley was granted Freeport status in March 2021, boasting the largest Freeport in the UK, covering 4,500 acres. This development is set to generate more than 18,000 jobs and contribute a staggering £3.2 billion to the local economy in the next five years.
In addition, Teesside has recently gained recognition as a “net zero hot spot,” largely due to the efforts of Net Zero Teesside. Its priorities include achieving carbon neutrality at Teesside Airport by 2030 and establishing the UK’s first decarbonised heavy industrial cluster by 2040 through the implementation of carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) technologies.
Tania Cooper MBE, Managing Director of Steel Benders UK Ltd and Chair of the NESF, said: “This collaboration with local businesses showcases the strong commitment of local businesses towards fostering educational opportunities and empowering our region’s youth.
“Teesside is benefiting from exciting forward-thinking growth and significant investment, which is key to the economic development of the area, meaning there has never been a better time to invest in our young people.
“With growth and investment comes the need for further infrastructure, which in turn calls for more skilled people to fulfil positions.
“That is why, through building partnerships with local businesses, we will provide people in the North East with practical and transferable skills that will equip them with specialist technical skills and knowledge to serve increasing demand on Teesside.”
Bill Scott OBE, Chief Executive of Wilton Universal Group, said: “We are proud to join forces with the North East STEM Foundation in its campaign for a University Technical College on Teesside. Investing in the education and development of our youth is essential for the growth and success of our region, and by equipping them with specialised technical skills we are ensuring a bright future for Teesside and its budding industries.”
John McGee, Managing Director of Durata UK, said: “This is a noble proposal which will stand our up-and-coming talent in good stead for the next industrial revolution taking place in the North East.
“We are excited to be part of this endeavour and look forward to seeing the positive impact it will have on our community.”
Other businesses that have signed up to this initiative include Hunstman, Steel Benders UK Ltd, Elring Klinger, METS Services Ltd, Lucid Technical Solutions – with more to follow.