Employers welcome plans for new engineering college

Proposed Bristol Technology & Engineering Academy in Stoke Gifford, Bristol.

Local engineering companies are getting involved in shaping the curriculum of Bristol and South Gloucestershire’s new University Technical College (UTC), planned to open on a site in Stoke Gifford in September 2013.

UTCs are a new concept in education, offering 14-19 year-olds a course of full time study that is very technically orientated.

Employers are key to the success of UTCs and are involved in shaping the curriculum from the start through real-world projects as well as offering industry days and work experience. The BTE Academy is sponsored by Rolls-Royce, Airbus and GKN Aerospace and other local and regional employers are being encouraged to get involved. The education sponsors are the University of the West of England (UWE) and City of Bristol College.

The Bristol Technology & Engineering Academy, as the local UTC will be known, will be open to young people from across Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Bath and North East Somerset who are interested in a career in the engineering or environmental technology sectors.

Initially, the intake will be made up of up to 220 students from age 14 (key stage 4) and up to 120 from 16-19 (key stage 5) with people able to apply from September 2012. When fully operational the academy will have 33 full time equivalent staff and recruitment is currently underway for a Principal.

The planning application for the new UTC is currently being considered by officers at South Gloucestershire Council and a decision is expected to be made at a meeting of the council’s Planning Committee in August.

UTCs offer an entirely new way of learning and differ to traditional schools in a number of ways. Students opt in to join the academy and learning is project based. Theory is backed up with practice, including the chance to use equipment of the highest industrial standards. The academy will mirror the ethos and culture of employment with a working day closely following office hours. There are many options open to students afterwards including progression to an apprenticeship or university or straight into employment.

Welcoming the plans for the new college, John Roberts, Airbus UK Chief Engineer (A380), said:

“The Bristol region is renowned worldwide for excellence in technology and engineering such as aerospace, but also environmental technologies, and micro-electronics, and the academy will help future-proof this heritage. We envisage some very real future skill shortages in engineering and we see the BTE Academy as a vital platform for inspiring more young people (especially young women) to realise the life-long benefits of study in these areas. We are pleased to be supporting the BTE Academy as an employer sponsor.”

Andrew Orrell, Rolls-Royce, Chief of Support Engineering (Defence), added:

“University Technology Colleges such as the new Bristol Technology & Engineering Academy give young people access to the technical qualifications and practical experience required to excel in industry. Developing these skills can lead to highly rewarding careers designing and creating innovative products and working with some of the world’s most advanced technology.”

Some local councillors and headteachers have voiced concerns that the UTC might exacerbate a surplus of places at secondary schools in the North Fringe area but managers behind the new college say that, on average over the UTC’s whole catchment area, only between one and two students per secondary school are likely to be awarded a place.

The UTC’s draft admissions policy states that 30% of places will be randomly awarded to students in each of three geographical areas (north, east and west), with the remaining 10% of places going to students living outside the nominal catchment area.

Addressing concerns raised about the impact the UTC could have on local traffic congestion, managers point out that the site is well served by public transport, with Parkway train station ten minutes walk away and a number of bus routes passing nearby.

For students who live in areas not served by suitable public transport and for whom cycling is not an option, the academy says it will offer a private coach service to enable them to reach the college without using their cars.

The academy also hopes to offer bursaries, based on need, to students whose families would otherwise find it difficult to meet the cost of the public transport journey.

BTE Academy launch event held at UWE on 28th June 2012.

Photo (L-R): Andrew Orrell (Rolls-Royce PLC), John Lanham (UWE), Judith Stradling (City of Bristol College), John Roberts (Airbus) and Mark Simpson (GKN Aerospace) pictured at the BTE Academy launch event held at UWE on 28th June 2012.