Sheffield is all geared up for a new era in education

Principal Nick Crew at UTC Sheffield, which is nearing completion.
Principal Nick Crew at UTC Sheffield, which is nearing completion.

Education in Sheffield enters a new era next week as 270 students begin the first term of the University Technical College in the city centre.

They will be pioneers in a £9.9m building where the focus is on turning 14 to 19-year-olds into the next generation of engineers, manufacturers and designers and digital experts.

The college at the corner of Matilda Street and Shoreham Street is specifically designed to meet the demands of local employers, and the environment aims to replicate the workplace as opposed to the school.

It will be a long working day, from 8.30am to 5pm, and dress code will be related to the world of work.

Students and staff will work with more than 70 local businesses, and the college is backed by Hallam University, Sheffield College, the Chamber of Commerce and the council.

UTC principal Nick Crew said: “It is a unique establishment and a fantastic opportunity for young people, a step change in terms of what they are being offered.”

The college - the first of its kind in Yorkshire - offers specialist vocational learning alongside an academic curriculum within the engineering, creative and digital sectors.

The initial intake is 90 in Year 10 and 180 post-16s, with a quarter coming from places such as Rotherham, Barnsley, Doncaster, Chesterfield and Worksop.

Mr Crew said there had been “very strong” interest from students for a place at one of the 14 UTCs that are being launched. “From national feedback we’ll be the strongest in the country.

“Looking at the profile of the students, they are very well informed. We feel we have got the right balance of students who are interested in the specialist areas.”

The number of students is due to rise over the next three years to a capacity of 600.

The first batch of students will be predominantly male. Attracting more girls will be a longer-term goal.

While most of the campus is new, it has been incorporated into the Victorian Sydney Works, creating a series of “mini factories” and studios.

“It’s very exciting to walk around the building, which is very different from the traditional school environment,” said Mr Crew. “It is built on business principles with a different atmosphere.”

Companies backing the UTC include Siemens, Rolls Royce, Newburgh Engineering, Tata Steel, Firth Rixon and Sheffield International Venues.

It’s a template that civic leaders hope will be repeated on the site of Don Valley Stadium, which is due to close this month.

Sheffield College is leading application to the Government for a second UTC, specialising in sports and life sciences, as part of an Advanced Park for Sport and Wellbeing.

For the moment, though, the focus is on the students who will be getting used to their new surroundings in Shoreham Street.