Photo gallery: Norfolk’s first university technical college UTC Norfolk opens its doors

Employer director Shawn Taylor with students on the first day of the new University Technical Colleg

Employer director Shawn Taylor with students on the first day of the new University Technical College Norfolk. Photo: Bill Smith

Norfolk's first university technical college has opened its doors today to a pioneering group of 219 pupils as it attempts to address the skills gap for engineering in Norfolk.

First day of the new University Technical College Norfolk. Photo: Bill Smith

First day of the new University Technical College Norfolk. Photo: Bill Smith

UTC Norfolk is housed in the specially-converted Connaught factory on Old Hall Road in Norwich, and will fuse academic and vocations skills for the 14-to-19-year-olds who attend.

The UTC's board includes representatives of Lotus Cars, the maritime and shipping industry, and offshore surveying, as well as the University of East Anglia.

Board member Richard Hill, a chief engineer at Lotus, said: 'We scour the country and the world to find young engineers to work at Lotus and we want to grow our own locally, who we can train as bespoke engineers.'

Yvonne Mason, managing director of Safe STS, and UTC another board member, said: 'If you look at the who's in the UTC, we take most of the economic drivers for Norfolk and Suffolk and we have representatives of most of them.'

Principal Alex Hayes said the college received 415 applications, and has 219 students registered from as far away as Ely, from at least 48 different schools.

He said the students would be working hard. He said: 'You are doing academic, technical, employment, an extended day and you have to travel. It's a tough package. We made no bones about it.'

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Year 10 pupils started lessons this morning, while Year 12 students are due to register tomorrow.

One, Liam Walpole, 16, from Lowestoft, is an apprentice for CLS Offshore, and will study at the UTC for two years, three at the UEA, and spend a year in industry.

Bronwyn Dawson, 14, from Sheringham, said a key attraction of the UTC was the active involvement of employers, who will set technical challenges for pupils. She said that knowing businesses would help her when trying to start her career.

She added: 'I'm hoping to become a medical engineer. The people here are just as determined as we are that we get the grades. It makes us even more determined.'

Josh Huggins, also 14, from Norwich, said: 'There are opportunities here that we can only do here. The things you can actually do here, you can't do anywhere else. The activities are unique to this school.'

Podcast: Women engineers, the skills gap, and Norfolk's first university technical college - with UTC Norfolk principal Alex Hayes

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