Opened a hundred years ago to service Cumbria’s booming steel industry, Workington Technical College is now a long gone memory, yet this week sees the opening of its ultra modern equivalent.
The Energy Coast University Technical College (UTC) is no longer servicing the steel rail-making industry, but the county’s developing renewable energy specialism.
With the area surrounded by wind farms, tidal generator projects and nuclear decommissioning specialisms, demand for a suitably skilled workforce is growing, with the UTC held in high hopes.
The latest UTCs are government-funded schools that give 14–18 year olds more than traditional schools, offering technical and scientific subjects in a modern, workplace-inspired way, with the West Cumbrian college being supported by numerous local businesses, who in turn have a trained workforce pool to choose from.
At £10 million the college is a big investment, but it is one that is desperately needed to plug the skills gap in the area.
Training provider, Gen2 currently has a record number of 200 apprentices in West Cumbria, yet given the masses of investments coming to the area in the future thousands more skilled staff will be needed.
Hints at a new nuclear plant, and further investment in the the area from GlaxcoSmithKlein and BAE Systems totalling hundreds of millions of pounds mean that the 140 starters at the college have a potentially prosperous future ahead.
Students will be taught the standard curriculum for GCSEs, with the added bonus of a BTec in engineering (allowing students to boost their qualifications and go on to the equivalent A-Level grade BTec), aided by its employer partners.
As an example, nuclear decommissioning experts Sellafield set a number of projects, such as how to decommission a crane, meanwhile they’ll be taught CAD skills across the Autodesk suite.
With more students than ever being encouraged to look at alternatives to university education, such colleges are forming an important part of making the choices easier – providing gateways into all kinds of higher education.