Left to Right: Denis Parsons (Centrax), David Shephard (FSB), Stephen Criddle (South Devon College), Paula Sanderson (University of Exeter), Dr Stephen Bird (South West Water), Will Thorpe (CIWEM)

Green light for new £9.7m University Technical College for South Devon

A £9.7m bid to create a University Technical College (UTC) in Newton Abbot has been approved by the Department for Education.  

South Devon UTC - the area’s first University Technical College – will offer a new way of learning for up to 600 young people aged 14 to 18. It will be based in Newton Abbot and recruit from a 30 mile catchment area which includes Teignbridge, Torbay, Exeter and the South Hams.

The academy school will have a unique focus in engineering, water and the environment, reflecting both the natural environment in Devon and the needs of employers in these industries where there is a lack of technicians available. Locally, apprenticeship numbers in science, engineering and manufacturing are half the regional average and nationally the technician deficit is estimated to reach 450,000 by 2020.

The project partners will now move forward with the choice of site for the new-build in Newton Abbot town centre, the selection of contractors and setting up the school, with up to £1m allocated for specialist engineering and science equipment and full ICT support for students. The school is currently planned to open in 2015, subject to the confirmation of site.

The University of Exeter’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Sir Steve Smith, commented: “The University Technical College will play a key role in inspiring Devon’s young people to consider higher education and an engineering or science career. As a leading UK University we have an important part to play in raising the aspirations of local school students, and our extensive programme of outreach activity already demonstrates the opportunities offered through a university education to young people across the South West. The University Technical College will provide a new pathway to higher education to young people with a flair for engineering or science.”

Anne Marie Morris, MP for Newton Abbot, said: “I am absolutely delighted the green light has been given to build South Devon UTC. This has been achieved as a result of the hard work of all involved in the partnership group and I pay tribute to their efforts. Having a UTC in Newton Abbot will mean that South Devon young adults have the opportunity to benefit from access to cutting edge facilities whilst also learning the basic skills all employers are looking for. This is great news for our area and I cannot wait for it to open.”

Cllr Jeremy Christophers, Leader of Teignbridge District Council said: “We are absolutely thrilled that this bid has been successful. It’s visionary, innovative and brings together the perfect blend of partners, all of whom are committed to nurturing our young talent. The greatest gifts we give the youth of today are the skills to succeed in the future. I’ve said it before but it’s worth saying again: Teignbridge is totally committed to creating more jobs, backing business and attracting new investment. The University Technical College is a prime example of how we are leading from the front to make sure our young people get access to top quality training, support and job opportunities. We cannot wait to get started on the next stages.”

Stephen Criddle, South Devon College’s Principal, said “South Devon College is delighted with the Department’s recent endorsement of the South Devon University Technical College (UTC) bid. This exciting new type of educational establishment, based in Teignbridge, will build and expand on the success of two outstanding educational providers and hugely committed local employers. There is much to do in the full set up phase with the aim for the first year of entry to the South Devon University Technical College. Building on the partnership team’s drive and passion already achieving such positive steps forward, 14-18 year old students across the area will soon be able to enjoy a unique, top quality and industry focussed new school learning environment. South Devon College is very pleased to be a core part of this shared vision for South Devon.”

The Leader of Devon County Council, Councillor John Hart, said: "The approval of the UTC will complement our whole strategy to develop Devon's economy. We are committed to providing more opportunities for our young people to become better qualified and for the whole workforce to be able to improve their skills. That means local companies will be able to expand and employ local people in better paid jobs and improve the standard of living. We have been delighted to work with the South Devon UTC partnership on this project and we look forward to more productive partnerships with our schools, FE colleges and universities across Devon."

South West Water’s Operations Director, Dr Stephen Bird, said: “South West Water is excited at the prospect of this new UTC and we see it as playing a key role in helping us develop the flexible, technically able and mobile workforce of the future. Linking in to our already successful apprenticeship scheme and helping to equip our local youngsters with the skills and knowledge they will need to work in our increasingly multi-skilled workforce is a key objective for us as we prepare for the challenges that face the water industry into the future.”

Tony Wiltshire, Director and General Manager of Centrax Turbine Components Ltd, said: "The opportunity to establish a UTC within Teignbridge is an exciting prospect for the businesses and youngsters of the region alike. The UTC will create a local core of highly employable students with solid technical skills. This will allow the diverse mix of businesses in the south west to flourish by supporting innovation and growth of intellectual property, enabling companies to compete in the global market place."

Greg Fitzgerald, Chief Executive of Galliford Try, currently undertaking the £150m South Devon Link Road project said: "We are delighted that the UTC has got the go-ahead. As a major employer in the area keen to employ local people we are particularly interested in what the school has to offer and, as a sponsor, to have the opportunity to contribute to courses so that they have relevance to our needs as well as those of those of the region's industry and commerce in general."

The Environment Agency’s Regional Director Richard Cresswell said: “When we are recruiting engineers and scientists we look for knowledge of our industry and an enthusiasm to be involved. We see that the UTC will give students the passion they need to ensure a commitment to their scientific or engineering career with us.”

Matthew Shanks, Executive Headteacher at Coombeshead Academy, said: “A University Technical College within Newton Abbot presents opportunities for the secondary schools to work alongside the partners connected with the UTC, in providing the best possible education for the young people of Newton Abbot. I am delighted with the positive announcement today.”

Dr Sarah Ward, Chair of the South West branch of the Chartered Institute of Water and Environment Management (CIWEM) said: "Recognition of water and environmental issues and their implications for society and the economy has increased significantly over the last 20 years. If we are to really step up to future challenges, such as global climate change adaptation, we will continue to need high calibre engineers with the knowledge and skills to tackle such issues sustainably. The South Devon UTC provides an excellent opportunity for the University of Exeter, CIWEM and industry to shape students into highly-skilled professionals and we look forward to supporting it."

Gordon Oliver, Mayor of Torbay, fully supports the proposed University Technical College. “This is just what South Devon needs. Our young people will have the chance to acquire relevant skills which the regional economy requires, and our businesses in the water, engineering and environmental industries will have access to a well trained work force which they have helped to shape. The Council will continue to work with all partners to secure the best opportunity for all young people.”

David Shephard, Devon Regional Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), also supported the bid: “It is essential in today’s economic climate that we encourage school students to take an active role in the economy when they leave school. The University Technical College will provide an excellent vehicle for young people who wish to pursue a career in engineering and science, and has the fullest support from the Federation of Small Businesses, who see this as a unique opportunity to develop a centre of excellence here in Devon.”

The UTC will integrate an outstanding academic and technical education with a comprehensive work experience and enrichment programme. Teaching and learning will be delivered in a purpose built school enabling students to learn, qualify and progress through an exciting and engaging curriculum. This will allow for the achievement of English, maths, science and technical qualifications through a practical and stimulating school experience with regular employer contact. A significant proportion of the timetable will be spent on work-based projects.

As a non selective school the UTC will enable students to achieve academic qualifications including GCSEs and A levels as well as technical qualifications at levels 1-3. Students will progress to jobs as technicians or apprentices or progress to university, many having secured industry sponsorship to do so. Recent FSB national research has shown eight out of ten businesses do not believe school leavers are ready for work. 77% found school leavers’ general business awareness was poor. The work-based learning practice of the school combined with work experience will ensure UTC graduates are professional, enterprising and competent, ready to join the workforce.

For further information please visit the project website

Date: 28 March 2013

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