• University Technical Colleges

    There are 41 UTCs in the UK and two of these are based in Kent; Medway UTC and The Leigh UTC. Medway UTC’s Principle, Dr Karon Buck, spoke at the Rochester Business Guild Seminar which took place on 14th October 2015, which Brachers proudly co-hosted. It became clear at the seminar that there was a general lack of understanding and knowledge about UTCs, from both an employer and parent/child perspective.

    Parents are often aware of the key practical skills their children require but are not always informed of the options available.

    University Technical Colleges (UTCs) are funded by the government, in the same way as a traditional secondary school. However, UTCs break away from the mould in so far as their focus is teaching and practical application of technology and scientific subjects in combination with traditional subjects such as maths and English. Students can start at a UTC aged 14, the year before they start their GCSEs or aged 16, after completing their GCSEs.

    UTCs specialise in subjects where there are a shortage of skills including construction, engineering, manufacturing, health sciences, product design and digital technology, to name but a few.

    They work with local employers to ensure students have access to the latest research, teaching and skills-set. This allows companies and potential employers to build relationships with students from a young age to ensure they are targeting their future workforce.

    Manufacturing Industry

    The Government recently announced their plan to strengthen the UK manufacturing supply chain aiming to inspire the next generation. There are currently 57 different types of manufacturing industries where apprenticeships are available, yet the number of apprenticeships started in 2013/14 was 70,000 less than the previous year and out of the 440,000 apprentices that did start, only 65,000 of them were in the manufacturing sector.

    The problem that will arise in years to come is when skilled workers retire, there will be no replacements sufficiently trained to replace them without ‘poaching’ within the supply chain. Historically, university might have been the ultimate goal for students. However, as more recognition is given to alternatives such as UTCs, colleges and apprenticeships, there is not necessarily enough being done to allow businesses, parents, and pupils to understand the routes available. Ultimately, the current minimum student debt per year is £9,000 (based on tuition fees alone) whereas entry level schemes offering apprenticeships should cost the student significantly less.

    Employers may be concerned that their investment could be short-lived, with the employee leaving the company once they are fully trained. However, clauses can be put into their contract of employment should they leave the company within, say, two years of qualification, that they have to reimburse the company for any training costs.


    There are a wide range of vocational options available with more Government backing and funding than ever before. Large companies are now assisting their suppliers by sharing good practice tips on running successful apprenticeship programmes and there is a lot to be said for ‘learning whilst doing’ and allowing students to develop their skill-set in a working environment.

    Brachers will be holding a manufacturing round table event in 2016 to discuss issues for businesses in the manufacturing sector. If you would like to know more about how Brachers can support manufacturing businesses then please contact Catherine Daw.

    This content is correct at time of publication

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