Business backing will make UTC a success

Nick Crew at the new university building on Shoreham Street, Sheffield
Nick Crew at the new university building on Shoreham Street, Sheffield

THE expectations are enormous - and no one knows it better than Nick Crew.

He’s the principal of the forthcoming teenagers’ technical college which is supposed to help ‘revive a strong economy’ by creating the next generation of manufacturing and digital specialists.

The college will have a gilded start in a new £9.9m building, impressive facilities and the backing of companies offering hands-on support and placements.

Nick said: “There are certainly expectations. There’s a lot of money going into it. I feel that weight strongly, but it’s one that’s a privilege to take forward.

“Employers are taking a driving role in the curriculum and I’m looking to recruit a staff team with the expertise to get it across.”

The University Technical College, which opens on Shoreham Street in September, will offer academic and technical education for 14- to 19-year-olds in engineering and manufacturing, and creative media industries.

It will have 240 students initially, half aged 14 and the rest 16, rising to 600 after three years.

It is a first for South Yorkshire, but not for the country. The first, sponsored by JCB in Staffordshire, is now the most oversubscribed school in that county, Nick says.

But encouraging 14-year-olds to leave high school is not done lightly and support over a period of months is being offered.

But Nick predicts it will end up oversubscribed as young people respond to the new approach. The lucky ones won’t have an easy ride. The UTC is set to have lessons from 8.30am to 5pm on three days, and until 4pm on Monday and Friday. Long hours perhaps, but productive. Students cram three years’ learning into a two-year course and six years’ learning in four years, Nick says.

“Students are likely to be quite tired, but they can see that the employer-led programmes really bring learning to life. That’s the real selling point.

“The last thing we want is for kids to want to go back to their old school.”

But although it will be well resourced, well supported and oversubscribed, he insists it won’t create a two-track system by making traditional schools look dowdy.

“I’m saying to local headteachers we want to share that resource and we want other students to come in. We are looking to reach out, we are trying to grow the talent across the region”