Institutions such as Scarborough’s new University Technical College are key to a brighter future for the 50% of young people who are not catered for by current school strategy.
That was the message from Education Secretary Justine Greening who used her official opening of the UTC to highlight the importance of career-based, practical education for teenagers rather than just primarily academic.
She is the first Education Secretary to open any of the 47 UTCs across the country, and the highest ranking ministerial visitor for many years.
She was accompanied by Lord Baker, the creator of the UTC concept of normal school education for 14 to 18-year-olds, but with the addition of engineering, technological, design tuition.
The Secretary of State praised Scarborough UTC for championing the aspirations of young people to pursue careers and employment for which there is ever increasing need for new talent.
“I think it’s fantastic for giving these young people a very different education – much more practical and technical, and one that they find stimulating,” said Ms Greening.
“It’s also matching them up with amazing employers which can offer them great opportunities and careers. It’s a winning combination.”
Ms Greening attended a business dinner sponsored by HSBC and held at the UTC. Michelin-star chef Andrew Pern created a four-course meal, with assistance from staff and students of the Grimsby Institute, Scarborough TEC (Yorkshire Coast College), Bookers of Eastfield, and SIV, the Spa managers.
The cabinet minister, the daughter of a factory worker from Rotherham, revealed that she first came to Scarborough as a keen young swimmer and swam in the old, sea-filled South Bay Pool.
In the presence of UTC supporter and Flamingo Land owner Gordon Gibb, she revealed that she attended the fun park as a comprehensive school treat in her teens.
She said the country had an education system which mainy covered half its pupils. “There is a need to focus on technical education as well as academic,” she said.
“It’s really important for half of our young people in England who don’t go to university, that the technical education route they want to follow is every bit as good as the academic route.”
Asked whether secondary schools were reluctant to encourage pupils to consider the UTC because the school did not want lost thousands of pounds per pupil from its budget, the Education Secretary said she wants to see co-operation from all sides.
“We want to see schools and local authorities working alongside the UTC to make it successful,” said Ms Greening.
“If you talk to talk to the young people who are here, they are switched on by a more practical and applied kind of education.
“A lot of them know what they want to do down the track, and are looking at some of the careers that are on offer locally.
“So frankly, meeting their aspirations and expectations isn’t just good for them, it’s good for local employers and I think that’s good for Scarborough. North Yorkshire County Council has been supportive and I think that’s one of the bigger advantages that this UTC has had here.”
The UTC aims to give youngsters the skills to help grow the existing engineering, technology and manufacturing companies which have vacancies and are having to recruit from other parts of the country, if they can.
They include Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Deep Sea Electronics, University of Hull, McCain Foods, Firmac, ADL Plaxton, Unison, Shneider Electric Ltd, Serverfield, Sirius Minerals (York Potash) and Flamingo Land.
Last October, the Department of Education, launched Opportunity Areas to elevate the experiences and aspirations of younger pupils at primary schools too.
It allocated £60 million to help young children in “social mobility cold spots” where a lack of parenting skills might be an issue.
They were identified as Scarborough, Blackpool, Derby, Norwich, Oldham and West Somerset. They were joined by Bradford, Doncaster, Fenland and East Cambridgeshire, Hastings, Ipswich and Stoke this month.
It develops partnerships with early years providers, schools, colleges, universities, businesses, charities and local authorities to “ensure all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential”.
Ms Greening held up the North Yorkshire County Council supported scheme the Scarborough Pledge as a “great example” under the Opportunity Areas project.
She added: “Young people in Scarborough are growing up with some fantastic opportunities on their doorstep and we have employers who want skilled technicians and skilled engineers and yet can’t find people to take all those opportunities currently.”