Norfolk skills university could open next year

A university technical college to boost the skills of thousands of Norwich and Norfolk youngsters and provide top-notch employees for the region's energy and engineering industries could open next September.

A statement of intent from City College Norwich and the University of East Anglia (UEA) to develop one of the UK's first UTCs gained ministerial approval yesterday.

The bidders must now submit further plans for final approval for funding from the Department for Education (DfE).

The college is the lead sponsor, with UEA as co-sponsor and a host of local and national industrial giants backing the project.

The UTC for 14-19-year-olds could be set up in Norwich, giving talented youngsters from across the county a headstart in the industries and bringing a big boost to the local economy.

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Up to 600 teenagers at any one time would study a mixture of academic and vocational qualifications during normal office hours to fill a gap in the skills market.

College principal Dick Palmer said: 'We have some really significant employers within energy, manufacturing and engineering based here in Norfolk. These employers can and should play a key part in the future economic development of our region.

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'Through the UTC we want to support the growth and development of these sectors by providing young people from Norfolk with the technical skills needed to work in these areas.

'I am delighted that our proposal has been well received by the DfE and they have asked to prepare for a September 2011 start. We can now start the real work with our partners to turn this tremendous opportunity into reality.'

Dr Ben Milner, associate dean for learning and teaching at UEA's Faculty of Science, said: 'UEA is pleased to support the proposal to establish a UTC that will specialise in the areas of energy and engineering.

'A UTC in the east of England that specialises in these areas would be beneficial to many local employers as there is significant demand for such suitably skilled young people.'

UTCs are new institutions for 14-19-year-olds, combining practical and academic study and specialising in technical studies.

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