Written by: Dan Fell, CEO Doncaster Chamber
The Chamber is backing a campaign to create a University Technical College (UTC) in Doncaster and urging Doncaster businesses to do likewise.
A UTC is a government-funded school that offers 14–18 year olds a different type of learning experience. UTCs teach students technical and scientific subjects in a whole new way and are designed to teach the inventors, engineers, scientists and technicians of tomorrow. Whilst the curriculum follows that of a mainstream school in terms of core subjects at GCSE and A-Level such as Maths, English, sciences and humanities, the unique element of a UTC is the way in which students experience learning. All subjects are linked through to real-life projects by a constant ‘bringing to life’ of the curriculum through the demonstration of how their learning is linked to their chosen pathway, such as higher education or the world of work.
So why is the Chamber backing the UTC so vociferously? For me, there are four main reasons:
Supporting Key Sectors
The UTC will support the education, training and vocational development of young people in sectors that are pivotal to the future of Doncaster’s economy. These include: Rail, Engineering, and Manufacturing. All of these sectors are, already, key contributors to Doncaster’s economy; however, businesses in all of these sectors are also reporting skills gaps and an ageing workforce – issues that are constraining their growth potential. The UTC will help generate a supply chain of ambitious young people into these sectors and consequently help ensure that Doncaster has the talent it needs to maintain and develop more world-class businesses in these sectors.
There’s nothing new or exciting about this comment but, frustratingly, it remains as relevant as ever… Put simply, we have a debilitating national and local shortage of young people qualified in STEM subjects. Indeed, only this week we saw it highlighted in the news – on the back of A-Level results being announced – that the UK has a shortfall of a whopping 20,000 STEM graduates per year. It is also an uncomfortable fact that almost four times as many male pupils take physics each year than females. A visible and successful UTC will help raise aspirations in our young people and highlight the exciting STEM related careers available to them in and around Doncaster – I sincerely hope that it will go some way to overcoming the shocking gender imbalance mentioned above.
Joining The Dots
As I have written many times (and bored my wife to death about over the dinner table even more frequently), Doncaster has enjoyed unparalleled success this last decade with its big ticket regeneration projects. However, as I have also said many times, unless we ‘join the dots’ between these transformative projects and Doncaster’s SMEs, communities and young people then we have – bluntly – failed. The UTC will be a key piece in the jigsaw that makes shiny developments like the iPort, HS2 Academy, Doncaster Sheffield Airport relevant to Doncaster’s young people.
Our Town Centre
It is not yet known where Doncaster UTC will be based. The Chamber is, however, very keen to see it located in the town centre and is also encouraging its partners to take a similar view. Chamber members often report their strong views about the importance of a vibrant town centre. An increased student population in the town centre would, I think, support the development of an increasingly dynamic centre that enjoys a blended mix of: retail, leisure, commercial, residential and learning activities.
I would urge all local businesses to join the Chamber in noisily banging the drum for this project as they did so helpfully with the successful FARRRS and HS2 Academy schemes. You can find our more and pledge your support by clicking here.
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