THE Government has not ruled out building its new engineering centre of excellence in the North-East.

Ministers want to create a new further education college by 2017.

It will be the first of its type for 20 years, specialising in training engineers to work on the Government's High Speed Two (HS2) rail project, and bosses say the centre could be based in the North-East.

The University of Sunderland previously unveiled plans to open a University Technical College (UTC) in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, to educate young workers and plug the North-East's skills gap.

A Government spokesman said: “We are working through the finer details of the college, which include its location.

“It could be in the North-East or it may be more centrally based, but it will work with satellite centres to offer education provision.

“The scope and scale of the development will be discussed by HS2, the Department for Business and the Department for Education.

“We cannot rule anything in or rule anything out at this stage, but we want to train more engineers and this development will be the first of its type for 20 years.”

Business Secretary, Dr Vince Cable, who last year visited the site of Hitachi Rail Europe's £82m Newton Aycliffe train-building factory, said the country needed more skilled workers.

He said: “HS2 is the biggest infrastructure project that this Government is delivering.

“Therefore, it's right that a large scale investment in bricks and mortar should also come with investment in the elite skills which will help build it.

“That’s why the Government is launching the first further education college in more than 20 years, which will train the next generation of engineers in rail, construction and environmental studies that this country needs to prosper.”

In September last year, the University of Sunderland revealed plans to open an annex in Newton Aycliffe by 2015, accepting up to 600 students a year.

Bosses said the proposals, backed by train builder Hitachi Rail Europe and car parts maker Gestamp Tallent, both based in Aycliffe, and Sedgefield Labour MP Phil Wilson, would help bridge the North-East's worrying skills gap.

The region is expected to lose 8,500 workers to retirement by 2016.

Modelled on 1940s technical schools, the University Technical College would provide a centre of engineering excellence, focusing on extended work placements and the core GCSE subjects to improve skills.

In March last year, 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.