University of Sunderland, Hitachi Rail Europe and Gestamp Tallent will present Newton Aycliffe university technical college plans again

Hitachi Rail Europe is one of the companies backing a new university technical college in Newton Aycliffe

Hitachi Rail Europe is one of the companies backing a new university technical college in Newton Aycliffe

First published in Business News
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The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author Exclusive by

PLANS to create the North-East's first engineering centre of excellence will be re-submitted next month, The Northern Echo can reveal.

A bid for a university technical college (UTC), capable of training up to 600 youngsters every year, will be handed to the Government in early May.

The college would be based on Newton Aycliffe Business Park, County Durham.

Original proposals for an Aycliffe UTC were turned down in January when the Department for Education (DfE) favoured bids from London, Peterborough, Lincolnshire and Lancashire.

The plans, supported by the University of Sunderland, train builder Hitachi Rail Europe and car parts maker Gestamp Tallent, have received strong backing from Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, Transport Minister Stephen Hammond and Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson.

However, it is understood DfE ministers were not convinced the initial Aycliffe bid was ready.

Bosses, who aim to plug a forecast regional skills gap of 8,500 posts, hope to open the college in 2016.

Hitachi, which will start building trains in Aycliffe in 2016, wants workers for its 730-jobs plant, while chassis manufacturer Gestamp plans to create 320 posts.

Professor Gary Holmes, pro-vice chancellor of the University of Sunderland, previously told The Northern Echo: “The North-East suffers higher general unemployment than other regions nationally.

“However, the engineering industry is in good shape in our region and has been suffering from skills shortages and unfilled vacancies.

“There is a particular need for the well-skilled across the sector and trends suggest this sector will grow stronger.

“The arrival of Hitachi adds to what is already a major engineering presence and a new impetus in education and training is needed to help build a highly-skilled workforce for a prosperous future.

“This is a real opportunity to make a major contribution to the lives and security of our young people.”

UTCs are modelled on 1940s technical schools, providing extended work placements and core GCSE subjects to improve skills.

In March last year, the Government approved 13 new UTCs, with nine of them in the South.

The coalition Government has backed 45 in total, though the Newton Aycliffe centre would be the first in this region.

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