When people hear the name university technical college they could be forgiven for thinking it is not a school.
However, although far from being a traditional one, the UTC Sheffield City Centre is a school and takes students aged between 13 and 19.
Principal Alex Reynolds said: “It is a technical name, despite its name.
“With the name, technical college has all sorts of connotations. It is highly academic and highly technical in equal measure.”
The UTC, on Matilda Street, offers students the opportunity to study high quality technical qualifications in one of two specialisms – engineering and advanced manufacturing and creative and digital media, alongside GCSEs and A-levels in subjects including English, science and maths.
It was the first UTC in Yorkshire and The Humber and has gone from strength-to-strength since it opened its doors in 2013.
Students attend from across South Yorkshire and some part of north-east Derbyshire and for the first time this year youngsters were able to join in year nine, as well as years 10 and 12.
They study in the latest high-tech facilities including engineering mini-factories that simulate the real manufacturing environment and studios and media labs for projects including film, photography, animation and web application.
Mr Reynolds said they much of the specialist curriculum has been designed by course leaders and local employers to ensure that students are leaving the UTC with the skills needed to aid the economy and help meet the skills shortage.
“The whole point of putting us here in Sheffield was to meets the needs of the economy,” he said.
“Secondary schools have very broad based curriculum which doesn’t necessarily give students the skills and acumen to meet the roles needed in the economy.”
He added: “Increasing the growth of the economy also means that there needs to be more young people coming out of schools and colleges with the right technical skills. Up until the UTC opened this just wasn’t the case.
“Our students are coming out with skills to fill these roles but also with the skills to move the businesses forward.”
The latest statistics show that 100 per cent of UTC students progress onto university or into employment or further training, including high quality apprenticeships with employers such as BMW, Jaguar Land Rover and Boeing.
Mr Reynolds said that when students come to the UTC they may not necessarily know the exact job they want to go into, but know the area they wish to focus upon.
They are exposed to various different employers, who come into the UTC to take part in employer-led projects and careers events, which enables students to get an understanding of all the roles available to them.
Mr Reynolds added: “We are very proud of where we are morally positioned.
“Our curriculum and qualifications that we deliver are based on the benefits of the region and therefore the benefits of the students.
“They are not here to meet performance data, we are doing what is morally right and what employers and students want and parents and students make a conscious decision to come here.”
Letisha Smith, curriculum director for engineering, said students sell the UTC to prospective students and parents during showcase event.
“They really do enthuse about what they are doing and who they have met,” she said.
She added that students get the chance to visit Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre to explore apprenticeships.
“It really does raise aspiration having these contacts with industry,” she said.
“It raises what students what they want to achieve and opens their eyes to the opportunities available to them.”
Vicky Allen, curriculum director for creative and digital media, said students get ample opportunity to take part in work experience and employer-led projects with a range of companies.
“We offer a range of things so our students have that broad and breadth of opportunity to explore all the areas that they may want to work in or specialise in,” she said.
She added: “Our students get unconditional offers from Sheffield Hallam University which shows that they are really skilled enough for Hallam and they know that the opportunity the UTC offers them that we can guarantee the students’ predicted grades.”
Mrs Allen said that students are given the skills to not only do a job, but to be successful in interviews.
“We do get quiet a lot of students who are reserved at first and then they come out of themselves when they realise what they have to be like,” she said.
“We give students the skills to be employable. It’s not just about having the qualifications, it’s about going in, being confident and selling themselves. In class they do pitches and pitch ideas to employers, for example.”
Students at UTC Sheffield City Centre are full of praise for the opportunities they are being given and all of them are pleased they made the move from their more traditional secondary school.
Year nine student Shimla Randall said: “I wanted to come here because my secondary school was just focusing on academic subjects and I wanted to do more creative things.
“I found that I really like coding and things like that once I came here.”
Year 10 pupil Bradley Tait added: “I feel this school is so much better for me. It has a different way of learning and is a lot more creative and more more relaxed.
“There is more of a community feel and there are better teachers than at my old school.”
Budding engineer Joe Westnedge, who is in year 12, said: “My old school wouldn’t let me do what I wanted to do so I came here after my gran heard about the UTC on the radio.”
He added: “The school is more flexible and you can pick up work experience and do different projects outside our normal lessons.
Year nine pupil Jack Mead said the teachers were great and he was pleased he made the move.
He added: “It’s just a really great school. It’s still a normal school and we do the same subjects as everywhere else alongside our creative ones.”