A boost for manufacturing skills in Leeds

Today (5th August) the Department for Education has announced that it will approve the creation of University Technical College (UTC) in Leeds. The Leeds UTC is an academy school which accommodates pupils from age 14 to 18 providing traditional GCSE and A levels but with an additional focus on advanced manufacturing and engineering. The project which has been led by Kodak UK, Agfa, Unilever, Siemens and Grant Thornton with support from Leeds City Council, the University of Leeds, Leeds City College and the Leeds Chamber of Commerce. It is in response to a need by industry for more young people to consider manufacturing and engineering and ensure they are better prepared to apply for the variety of careers which exist across the sector.

Speaking about the announcement Phil Ball, Managing Director of Kodak UK and the Leeds UTC steering group chair said: “This really is great news for Leeds and the start of a new journey for education provision in the city. The manufacturing sector faces a crisis as it prepares to replace skills which are set to be lost due to retirements over the next decade, at the same time we are seeing renewed confidence from companies seeking to invest in our region. If we are to service this demand then we have to take steps to address these skills challenges.

The interest and support we have received from companies across the city has been exceptional and the Department for Education clearly saw this in our application. UTC’s offer a unique blend of traditional education combined with industry led projects and challenges set in real world scenarios and are highly responsive to the needs of employers. I am looking forward to seeing this institution established in Leeds for the benefit of businesses and future generations of young people.”

Councillor Keith Wakefield, Leader of Leeds City Council, said: “I welcome the UTC being established in Leeds. With our commitment to being a Child Friendly City, where all young people have the best possible experiences and best possible opportunity to have successful and fulfilling lives, the UTC will provide an extra, different approach to the range of education and learning available in the city.

“Advanced manufacturing and engineering are specialisms identified as a priority for Leeds City Region and a key employment sector in the local economy. Preparing young people for successful and enriching careers in these sectors will help further our Child Friendly City and Best Council ambitions and the UTC will be a significant development in the education infrastructure of the city.”

The UTC bid received fantastic support from the education sector and from industry leaders who all recognised the role this new institution could play in developing and preparing young people.

Speaking about the announcement Sir Alan Langlands, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds, said: “Engineering and advanced manufacturing is one of the most dynamic and important sectors of the economy in the Leeds City Region.  It is vital that we equip young people – boys and girls – with the skills they need for employment in this sector. The Royal Academy of Engineering has backed the concept of University Technical Colleges and the new college in Leeds will draw on a strong partnership between local industry leaders, Leeds City College, Leeds City Council and the University, to provide exciting new educational opportunities for 14-18 year-olds interested in engineering. The Faculty of Engineering at the University will advise on curriculum development and provide opportunities for UTC students to access specialist equipment and expertise in the course of their studies.”

Peter Roberts, CEO and Principal of Leeds City College, responded to the news also saying: “The (Leeds City) College is pleased to have been involved in the Steering Group in support of the UTC bid process.  We look forward to working collaboratively with the UTC in the future.”

Graham Cooper, Site Manager at Agfa Graphics in Leeds and a Director of the West & North Yorkshire Chamber, commented: “Manufacturing and engineering account for over 40,000 jobs in Leeds, it is a significant contributor to the local economy. In the Manufacturing sector there are many opportunities available for young people with the skills and aptitude to succeed and these opportunities will grow in future years. The UTC will provide a vital and much needed pipeline of talented young engineers into this highly competitive sector. ‘Made in Great Britain’ still has credibility around the globe and we must ensure we have the talent to continue the tradition.”

The plans will see the UTC take in its first batch of students in September 2016.