Leeds was today announced as the first UK home of a trailblazing education initiative that is designed to give young people the digital skills they need to prosper in the modern workplace.
Tech giant IBM has confirmed that its Pathways in Technology (P-TECH) programme is being launched for students at Leeds City College and two local schools - Cockburn School, in Beeston, and Belle Isle's Cockburn John Charles Academy.
Originally established in the Brooklyn area of New York in 2011, P-TECH aims to provide teenagers - largely from disadvantaged communities - with a viable career path in today's increasingly digitised economy.
The programme will run in Leeds alongside traditional GCSEs and A-Levels, with graduating students gaining a qualification such as a BTEC or HNC through a combination of classroom learning, work experience and paid internship opportunities.
Course leaders hope it will offer young people an easier route into entry-level jobs in fields such as cloud computing and cyber-security that do not necessarily require a full degree.
Due to start in September, the Leeds programme will be only the second of its kind in Europe.
Its launch comes ahead of a wider roll-out of the P-TECH scheme, with IBM aiming to have at least 200 schools signed up across 13 countries by the end of 2019.
The work in Leeds will be co-ordinated and evaluated by Leeds Beckett University, with support also being delivered by Leeds City Council.
Welcoming today's announcement, council leader Coun Judith Blake said: "We want Leeds to be the best city for children and young people to grow up in, and are very proud to be the first city in the UK to be involved in P-TECH, which we believe has the potential to offer better futures for young people.
"This innovative and exciting initiative brings together schools, further and higher education establishments and employers to address the skills gap by building a workforce with the technical and professional skills required by businesses in the city.
"This is vitally important for the future competitiveness and sustainability of Leeds and helps to address the issue of social mobility.”
Rob Dixon, head of school at Cockburn School, said: “Our students have high aspirations and this programme will help to propel them into an industry that is set to shape everyone’s future.
"I am confident that our work with such excellent education and business partners will lead to success for the children in our Cockburn community and lead them to become successful citizens in the modern world we live in.”
Cockburn John Charles Academy head of school Siobhan Roberts said: "It is our goal to send every student out into the world ready to play their part and be successful on an increasingly competitive and challenging global stage.
"The P-TECH programme will place our students at the heart of education and industry and give them a world class educational experience.”
Dr Steve Burton, from Leeds Beckett University's Carnegie School of Education, said: “We’re excited to get to work with our P-TECH partners to tackle the growing digital skills gap.
"It is hoped the P-TECH initiative will make a strong contribution to social mobility, as it creates the pathways for progression whilst students are still in school.”