Disappointment after North-East bid for university technical college is rejected

A Hitachi train

A Hitachi train

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Parliamentary Correspondent

AN MP and business chiefs spoke of their disappointment last night (Thursday, January 23), after a bid to set up a North-East college for would-be engineers was rejected.

The proposal for a university technical college (UTC) in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, was designed to plug a worrying skills gap in the area.

Headed by the University of Sunderland, the plans are backed by Hitachi Rail Europe, which is building its train-assembly factory in the town.

But the bid missed out yesterday, even as the department for education (Dfe) gave the go-ahead for six other UTCs across the country.

The Dfe refused to discuss its reasons for rejecting the Aycliffe application, or even confirm that it had been knocked back.

However, The Northern Echo understands Dfe ministers were not convinced it was ready to back, despite private support from Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

Another wave of UTCs is expected in early summer, prompting Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson to strike an optimistic note that the scheme was far from dead.

Mr Wilson said: “Obviously, I’m disappointed, especially when we had the support of the secretary of state for transport and the railways minister.

“It has not been approved now, but I want to continue to work with Hitachi, the University of Sunderland and the department for education to ensure it goes ahead.

“It is absolutely essential for the long-term economic development of the area that we get the UTC.”

That message was echoed by Darren Cumner, Hitachi’s manufacturing plant manager, who said: “We believe a UTC is an ideal opportunity to attract young people to technical and engineering professions from an early age.

“We will continue to explore all avenues of interesting young people in a technical career choice.”

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

The University of Sunderland and Hitachi are keen to open one an on annex on Aycliffe Business Park, accepting up to 600 students a year.

They hope to be up-and-running next year, at a time when the region is expected to lose 8,500 workers to retirement by 2016.

The six go-aheads yesterday – in Bolton, Peterborough, Lincolnshire, Warrington and two in London – bring the total number of UTCs to 51, but none are in the North-East.

Hitachi plans to create 730 jobs when its £82m train factory opens in 2016. The UTC bid is also backed by while car chassis maker Gestamp, which wants to create 320 jobs.

Comments (4)

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10:47am Fri 24 Jan 14

MSG says...

Hitachi, Cummins, Komatsu, Nissan etc must be dismayed at this decision !

This UTC would have provided the much needed engineers of the futrue right on their doorstep.

Too many kids go to university, we need more Level 2 or 3 apprentices trained up in college to keep industry going.

A very bad decision, and why two in Lancashire with Warrington & Bolton being so near to each other ??
Hitachi, Cummins, Komatsu, Nissan etc must be dismayed at this decision ! This UTC would have provided the much needed engineers of the futrue right on their doorstep. Too many kids go to university, we need more Level 2 or 3 apprentices trained up in college to keep industry going. A very bad decision, and why two in Lancashire with Warrington & Bolton being so near to each other ?? MSG
  • Score: 2

12:03pm Fri 24 Jan 14

The Grim North says...

What are the Technical Colleges at Bishop and Darlington teaching? By all means open more opportunities for training in Engineering but what are we paying the existing institutions to do?
What are the Technical Colleges at Bishop and Darlington teaching? By all means open more opportunities for training in Engineering but what are we paying the existing institutions to do? The Grim North
  • Score: 0

12:39pm Fri 24 Jan 14

MSG says...

The technical colleges could concentrate more on day release, block release of apprentices & technicians.
The UTC could get the students through Level 2&3 Diplomas, PEO certificates etc by targted 14+ education. This would allow the technical colleges to get the pupils through their HNC,HND and associate institute membership exams. The whole process could be rejigged with higher qualified engineers at a earlier age, rather than wasting pupils time after age 14 on lessons they do not need to do - art, music, french, RE , etc!
The technical colleges could concentrate more on day release, block release of apprentices & technicians. The UTC could get the students through Level 2&3 Diplomas, PEO certificates etc by targted 14+ education. This would allow the technical colleges to get the pupils through their HNC,HND and associate institute membership exams. The whole process could be rejigged with higher qualified engineers at a earlier age, rather than wasting pupils time after age 14 on lessons they do not need to do - art, music, french, RE , etc! MSG
  • Score: 0

7:02pm Fri 24 Jan 14

The Grim North says...

If this is targeted at 14+ then why can't comprehensive schools do the job or are they just concentrating on easy subjects these days
If this is targeted at 14+ then why can't comprehensive schools do the job or are they just concentrating on easy subjects these days The Grim North
  • Score: 0

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