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City Learning Trust announces plans to improve digital skills in Stoke-on-Trent

As with the national context, Stoke-on-Trent is suffering from a digital skills shortage that will only get worse. Expanding local employers such as Autonet Insurance and Synectics Solutions have recognised the situation and are looking to the future.

Kate Beardmore, HR Director, Synectics Solutions said: “Our business is home to a team of exceptionally-skilled technical and IT personnel and developers who are creating pioneering, first-of-its-kind technology. Because of this we’re growing rapidly across a variety of exciting sectors, and to support this growth we absolutely need the right talent. We’ve been increasingly struggling to fill our vacancies, and this isn’t an isolated incident, isn’t specific to our sector, and certainly not to our business. It’s a challenge the whole area is facing, and it’s one that we need to work together to remedy before it stifles the growth and ambition of the area’s best and brightest businesses.”

The need is growing in all sectors and joint planning with the City Learning Trust is therefore underway to create a University Technical College (UTC) in Stoke-on-Trent to open in 2019.

University Technical Colleges are government-funded schools that work in partnership with a university and local employers. They offer 14-19 year olds a great deal more than traditional technical education, teaching students technical and scientific subjects in a whole new way, educating the inventors, engineers, scientists and technicians of tomorrow.

The proposed City UTC will specialise in digital technology with a focus on Maths, English and Science. It will offer up to 600 14-19 year old students across Stoke-on-Trent the opportunity to develop skills and follow career paths with specialisms in digital technology.

Carl Ward, Chief Executive, City Learning Trust, said: “The modern world demands more advanced technical skills than ever before. The majority of our future workforce will work with digital technology, whether their careers take them into hi-tech hospitals or manufacturing. Our young people need the skills to be able to meet these challenges.

“University Technical Colleges will transform the way that students learn technical and scientific subjects. They will create new partnerships between schools, universities and employers and will offer students specific industry career pathways.”

Places will be open to students from across the area, not just restricted to those from the City Learning Trust secondary academies.

Carl Ward continues: “We are delighted to have Staffordshire University as our UTC University Partner, playing a central role in developing and delivering our curriculum, and helping our students follow career paths into Higher Education and through to employment.

“Building on our innovative Work Based Learning curriculum at Haywood Academy Sixth Form, we already have some fantastic business partners working with us to shape the teaching, learning and work experience that our students will receive. Our partners include Synectics Solutions, Autonet Insurance, UHNM NHS Trust, Fujitsu, Boots Opticians, RM Education, and Stoke-on-Trent & the Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership. We would be delighted to hear from other organisations interested in partnering with us in this exciting initiative.”

Partners will not provide any financial contribution to City UTC but will support its success by:

• Providing help in specialist subjects such as medical technology and cyber security
• Nominating governors to direct the leadership of the UTC
• Giving students an insight into business life and industry issues
• Organising access to specialist equipment and facilities in the workplace
• Providing individual mentors for students
• Guiding students on the best route to achieve their goals

The City Learning Trust is inviting businesses to an initial discussion event on December 8th from 3.15 to 4.45pm at Haywood Sixth Form Academy, Burslem Town Hall, with special guest Lord Kenneth Baker, Chairman of Baker Dearing Educational Trust.

Any business that currently faces a challenge with IT and digital recruitment or struggles to employ young people with critical thinking and innovation skills should come along to find out more about the opportunity to shape educational provision in Stoke-on-Trent.

Business representatives who would like to attend should contact Mrs Jo Shaw at Haywood Academy jshaw4@haywoodacademy.coop or telephone 01782 882620.

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