Alok Sharma, local Member of Parliament for Reading West, has visited the University Technical College (UTC) in Reading, which offers pupils specialist programmes in Engineering and Computing.
Alok was invited by Michael Halliday, Head of Employer Engagement Strategy at the UTC, to discuss the work they do to ensure neurodiverse students are able to effectively translate their skillset into the workplace. As a leader in technical education, the UTC works closely with tech and engineering companies, such as Microsoft, Cisco and Fujitsu, to address the skills gap and prepare young people for the world of work.
Adrian McMahon from the Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce also took part in the discussion, underlining the UTC’s close cooperation with its business partners.
Alok was delighted to learn that on leaving the UTC half of the students go on to secure university places, with almost all of them undertaking STEM-related degrees. 40 per cent of UTC students move on to apprenticeships and the remaining 10 per cent of students will go straight into the workplace.
As a result of the Government’s focus on technical education, since 2010 there have been over 4.2 million apprenticeship starts in England, with around 7,800 in the Reading West constituency. The Government has also established industry designed degree-level apprenticeships which bring together the very best of higher and vocational education, and allow apprentices to achieve a full bachelor’s or master’s degree whilst training on the job in areas such as chartered surveying, aerospace engineering and nuclear engineering.
Apprenticeships form part of the Government’s wider strategy to transform technical education, and Ministers are working with industry experts to deliver a technical education system that will provide young people with a credible alternative to university.
Alok Sharma said: “I was delighted to meet with the UTC and the Chamber of Commerce and I have agreed to host a roundtable with the UTC and their business partners to discuss how the Government could work even more closely with business and education to deliver high quality skills for our local economy.”
Michael Halliday said: “The need to provide a high-quality provision that enables young neurodiverse students to aspire to a meaningful career is of paramount importance in education, industry and society. Areas such as cyber security, AI, data science and analytics are facing acute skills shortages, which require skills often found within our neurodiverse student cohorts. We welcome the opportunity with Alok to explore with the Government how we can address the skills gap in the STEM sectors.”
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