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Pressure mounts on Government to approve technical college
THE Government has been urged to back plans for a new engineering centre of excellence to boost North-East skills.
Schools Minister Lord Nash is expected to announce in the coming days if a bid to establish a university technical college (UTC) in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham has been given the go ahead.
Lord Nash's team recently met a delegation from Sunderland University, which is sponsoring the plan to open a UTC in 2015, and train up to 600 budding engineers a year.
The scheme has the support of two of the area's major employers; Hitachi Rail Europe and Gestamp Tallent, who are keen to ensure they have a skilled local workforce to fuel their ambitious growth plans.
Hitachi plans to create 730 jobs when its £82m Aycliffe train factory opens in 2016, while car chassis maker Gestamp wants to create 320 jobs.
Phil Wilson, Labour MP for Sedgefield, and Alistair Dormer, the executive chairman and chief executive of Hitachi Rail Europe have written to Lord Nash to press the case for the Aycliffe.
In March, the Government approved 13 new UTCs, nine of them in the south, to address a growing skills gap in demanding technical subjects, including engineering, digital technologies and biomedical science.
In total, 45 UTCs have been approved by the Coalition, but the Aycliffe centre will be the first in the North-East.
A decision to shelve plans for a UTC in Darlington were recently
described by the town's Mayor, Councillor Charles Johnson as "missed golden opportunity."
Supporters of the Aycliffe bid hope it can help address a shortage of engineers in the region, which is predicted to become more acute in the next three years when 8,500 skilled workers reach retirement age.
Mr Dormer told Lord Nash: "The success of our factory will rely heavily on our ability to attract the right employees with a will to work in technical professions.
"Our application for a UTC is therefore an important step in ensuring young people in the region see engineering as a viable, long-term career choice."
He added: "As a company deeply rooted in engineering, we invest heavily into developing the skills of our workforce, offering them development opportunities within the company. The establishment of a UTC near our Newton Aycliffe factory is vital for the long-term success of our operation and we hope that the application meets with your approval."
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