A multi-million pound bid to set up a University Technical College (UTC) in Newhaven, specialising in marine and environmental engineering was given the green light from the government this week.
The new college will provide 600 students with technical courses and help revive the town, which has suffered from high unemployment.
The scheme includes a partnership with local and national employers to provide clear routes into jobs or further education and that they are ready for the world of work.
UTCs can make sense of learning for young people who are not motivated by ‘conventional’ schools.
Lewes District Council is hoping the college will open in 2015, attracting students from around Sussex, including Worthing, Bexhill and Haywards Heath.
A number of potential locations for the UTC have been already been identified in Newhaven, including a central site in town.
The bid was submitted by the University of Brighton, Lewes District Council and educational charity The Aldridge Foundation, in partnership with Veolia Environmental Services Plc.
The involvement of the University of Brighton and employers means that students will benefit from properly-assessed work placements and from a curriculum designed by experts in the field.
Evidence of demand and local support for the UTC formed an important part of the successful bid.
Survey results showed overwhelming support from businesses, with 87 per cent strongly supporting the idea of the UTC and 75 per cent anticipating that they would benefit from it.
More than half of the students and two thirds of parents who completed the survey expressed an interest in the UTC to provide skilled and qualified employees for local, regional and national employers. Local schools and education providers such as Sussex Downs College and Tideway School in Newhaven have also strongly supported the bid and helped shape it.
District council leader James Page said: “Undoubtedly key developments in the town such as the E.ON wind farm will require a skilled workforce, as will the proposed indoor water park which aims to harness the energy it requires from the new Veolia Energy Recovery Facility.
“The UTC gives such employers the opportunity to develop their employees of the future before they even leave college.”
Newhaven MP Norman Baker added: “The UTC is going to provide excellent opportunities to young people in Newhaven and the wider Lewes constituency.
“Students at the UTC will get the opportunity to learn technical skills that will allow them to specialise in a growing industry and will really help with their job prospects after leaving the college.”
Professor Julian Crampton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Brighton, said: “I am delighted that this ambitious plan has been given the go-ahead.
“It gives young people a fantastic opportunity to gain both academic and practical engineering experience, and will prepare them for their working lives.
“We are committed to the development of the first UTC in the sub-region and look forward to sharing our expertise.”
Sir Rod Aldridge, Chairman of the Aldridge Foundation, said: “We’re all in this for the same reason – to give more young people a chance to reach their full potential.
“Education doesn’t have to be a ‘one size fits all’ and I am absolutely convinced that this UTC will appeal strongly to students looking for a different way to learn.
“Close links with employers will ensure that students get an exciting, entrepreneurial education and a real head start in their future careers.”
Ben Slater, Regional Managing Director of the main employer sponsor Veolia Environmental Services, said: “As the leading recycling and waste management company both nationally and regionally, we are excited by the prospect of the UTC and proud to be the lead-employer sponsor of this innovative, educational facility.
“We are looking forward to helping develop skilled and qualified employees of the future.”
Robert Corbett, Head Teacher at Tideway School, said: “Both myself and the Board of Governors at Tideway fully support the creation of a UTC in Newhaven as we believe that it will enhance the educational and employment opportunities for young people in the town and wider community.
“We are looking forward to continuing to work closely with the partners supporting the UTC.”