PLANS to build the North-East's first engineering centre of excellence will be handed to the Government this week, The Northern Echo understands.

A bid for a university technical college (UTC) is expected to be submitted tomorrow (Thursday, May 8).

The college would be based on Newton Aycliffe Business Park, in County Durham, training up to 600 youngsters a year.

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Bosses hope to open the college in 2016 and help plug a forecast skills gap of 8,500 posts.

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.

It is believed DfE ministers were not convinced the initial Aycliffe bid was ready.

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

Hitachi will start building trains in Aycliffe in 2016 and wants workers for its 730 jobs plant, with chassis manufacturer Gestamp planning to create 320 posts.

Professor Gary Holmes, pro-vice chancellor of the University of Sunderland, said: “This is a real opportunity to make a major contribution to the lives and security of our young people.

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

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

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