The creation of a ‘University Technical College’ in Scarborough, will be of enormous benefit to the many engineering companies in the area, notes one of the project’s key backers – tube bending machine manufacturer and software provider Unison.
Unison is well known in the local North Yorkshire economy for its work as founder and principal organiser of the annual Scarborough Engineering Week event for schoolchildren, and has been a key supporter of the UTC campaign.
“For as long as Unison has been in existence, we have struggled to find the technical staff we need to grow,” said Peter Wilkinson, executive director of Unison and chairman of Scarborough’s Business Ambassadors Forum. “The same situation applies to virtually every other engineering company in this area. I know that most of our local engineering businesses could expand by 10% or more almost instantly if we had a pool of local engineering talent. The new UTC will lay the groundwork to help realise this ambition – bringing enormous opportunity to the area.”
The new UTC in Scarborough will cater primarily for 14-18 year-olds with a focus on courses promoting careers in ‘STEM’ subjects of science, technology, engineering and maths. It is hoped that as many as 600-800 college places could be offered to students starting from September 2016.
Wilkinson notes that there is a turning point in the economic development cycle when enough companies engaged in similar activities ‘cluster’ together. Their joint presence generates a large pool of skilled labour, and even helps to provide markets for each other’s goods. Reaching this ‘cluster’ concentration level is particularly difficult for engineering companies in the UK today, as a lot of the country’s youngsters have shunned engineering careers in recent years. The new UTC will be the catalyst that will help the Scarborough region to turn this situation around.
“Up to now, Scarborough alone has struggled to achieve the critical mass required to sustain itself as a successful regional centre for engineering,” he added. “The Scarborough UTC gives us the chance to become a regional hotspot for technology companies – embracing communities from Whitby to Bridlington to Driffield and beyond – helping existing employers to grow and attracting new businesses to set up in the local area.”
The annual Scarborough Engineering Week event, another Unison initiative, and now in its fifth year and with almost 2000 schoolchildren already registered to attend in October, has been an influential factor in the decision to site the new UTC in Scarborough. In a letter to Scarborough’s Business Ambassadors Forum discussing this initiative, His Royal Highness Prince Charles notes that there will be around 87,000 vacancies in the engineering professions this year, but only 51,000 qualified engineers available to fill the roles.
“It is of vital importance to this nation that we inspire our young people to become the engineers of tomorrow,” said Prince Charles. “That is why I am so heartened by Scarborough’s initiative and I am most grateful to local and regional businesses for taking the time to provide an insight into careers not just in Engineering, but also in the core skills of Science, Technology and Mathematics which are essential to success in this field.”