City eager to create Neet-free future with colleges bid

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LEEDS could soon be home to its first university technical colleges (UTCs) to train its future workforce and create a “NEET-free city”.

City hall bosses are set to push forward talks for the development of up to two UTCs, a new type of school combining academic and technical education for 14 to 19-year-olds.

The overall aim is to reduce the number of NEETs, young people who are not in education, employment or training.

An official expression of interest has already been submitted to the Department of Education.

It could eventually lead to a bid for up to £10m of funding,

An initial document submitted to the DoE included letters of support from Leeds, Leeds Metropolitan and Leeds Trinity Universities, the Leeds Federation of Further Education Colleges and more than a dozen employers.

Leeds City Council – which is acting on behalf of various stakeholders – is set to broker high level discussions to further the potential of the project.

A report set to be approved by the council’s executive board today says: “UTCs could present a major opportunity to help support the economic development of Leeds and create a highly skilled workforce required to thrive and grow in the future. They could also make a significant contribution to helping address the future need for secondary places.

“Further discussion with key partners is required to firmly establish the case for UTCs in Leeds.”

UTCs are 14-19 academies that offer a full-time technically oriented course of study with clear progression routes into higher education or apprenticeships,

Talks on a potential Leeds bid have been fast-tracked after dialogue with the Baker Dearing Trust, the charity which is rolling out the UTC project nationally.

The next funding round is in 2013, however Leeds is not expected to submit a full application until the following round.

The report to the executive board adds: “Our vision is underpinned by an ambition to be a ‘NEET-free’ city by transforming the experience of young people entering the job market.

“We aim to offer a ‘Guarantee to the Young’ supported by a range of integrated pathways including education, training, volunteering, work experience and apprenticeships, leading to jobs and higher-level qualifications.

“We also want to engage business much more directly with longer-term skills investment and shaping the curriculum that is delivered in our educational institutions.”

Yorkshire’s first university technical college is due to open in Sheffield later this year, delivering diplomas in either engineering or creative digital media alongside traditional GCSE and A-level subjects.