Scarborough UTC scheme ‘will close skills gap’

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THE GOVERNMENT is set to make a decision next month about a proposed £10m college scheme that would boost Yorkshire’s economy by providing tuition for a new generation of engineers.

Supporters of the planned University Technical College (UTC) in Scarborough say it will help to bridge the skills gap at a time when many manufacturing firms are desperately trying to find more staff. Some local manufacturers are recruiting staff from Eastern Europe because they can’t find the right people in Yorkshire. Peter Wilkinson, an executive director of Unison, the Scarborough-based tube bending machine manufacturer, told the Scarborough Ambassadors’ Dinner that the scheme’s supporters faced some tough questions from the Department for Education during a meeting in Sheffield on Wednesday.

The UTC would cater primarily for 14 to 19-year-olds interested in manufacturing careers. Seventeen career-based UTCs have already been set up across the country. The UTC concept has been created by the Scarborough Business Ambassadors’ Forum, which has organised an Engineering Week festival in the town for the past five years. Last year, it attracted 2,700 pupils.

Mr Wilkinson, who was a member of the delegation that met the officials, told the dinner in The Spa, Scarborough: “This is a huge £10m project that has the absolute backing of the business community. Most of the businesses in this room have signed up. Last October, at the end of (Scarborough) Engineering Week, we proposed that we would go for UTC status. We’ve been pretty fast track. We’ve had an amazing team working with us, including Hull University..We submitted a business plan on June 7 and that business plan was accepted. We were granted an interview. So today we’ve been to the Department for Education in Sheffield..they asked us questions that were very difficult. The team from Scarborough behaved impeccably.

“If it goes to plan, we will know by the end of July if we have UTC status. That means we will have a new build (development) potentially on a green field site, and it will be iconic. Why do we need it? We are now fighting with each other for the right people. At Unison, we have got 10 vacancies that we’ve got to fill. We are competing with each other.

“The UTC will fill that gap for us...We need that UTC to turn out young people who will come out from that college and go either straight into employment or going to university.

Mr Wilkinson told the Yorkshire Post yesterday: “We will have a massive skills gap deficit if we don’t succeed. We’ve got an ageing workforce and we need to recruit for new business. In the Scarborough district there are 100 plus vacancies for skilled technicians”

He said that Unison was looking to hire people from Poland and Lithuania because of the skills shortage.

A Department for Education spokesman said yesterday: “We are considering this proposal alongside other applications received.

“Once all proposals have been fully evaluated, we will notify applicants of the outcome.”