UK's new generation of National Colleges will lead revolution in hi-tech skills

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UK's Business Secretary Vince Cable announced a new wave of employer-led National Colleges to help the UK develop world-class skills in the advanced manufacturing, digital, wind energy and creative industries on 11 December 2014. 

The 4 colleges will cater for some 10,000 students by 2020, enabling bright young people to gain professional qualifications up to postgraduate level, and helping the UK close productivity and skills gaps with its international competitors. 

Up to £80 million of capital funding will be matched by employers over 2015 to 2016 and 2016 to 2017 – a potential total investment of £160 million by 2017.

Speaking in Sheffield, a major location for the new National College for Advanced Manufacturing, Vince Cable said: 

“Economic growth is underpinned by technological innovation, a strong manufacturing sector and scientific excellence. The UK can no longer afford to lag behind countries like France and Germany, which have invested heavily in technical skills at the highest level for generations.

“The National Colleges will function on a par with our most prestigious universities, delivering training that matches the best in the world. They will help build a strong, balanced economy that delivers opportunity across all regions in the UK.”

The 4 new National Colleges mark an important step in the government’s drive to place vocational training on a par with higher education, ending the outdated divisions that have held individuals and companies back. 

The National College for Advanced Manufacturing

The government will work with the High Value Manufacturing Catapult (HVMC) and the EEF, the manufacturer’s organisation, to establish a National College with major facilities at the AMRC in the Sheffield region and the MTC in Coventry. The Catapult leads innovation in manufacturing – its role will ensure training equips learners for the future economy. The National College will be established as a network of hubs that will identify and work with the best established providers nationwide.

The National College for Digital Skills

Digital skills are increasingly relevant not just to Tech firms, but to the success of the broader economy. The college, which will be an entirely new facility initially headquartered in London, is supported by a wide range of industry backers, including Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Deloitte, Gamesys (inaugural partner), IBM, King and the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

The National College for Wind Energy

Headquartered in the Humber with spokes across the country. Placing the hub in the Hull and Humber region ensures that the College will form the backbone of support for the planned growth of off-shore wind in the region.

The National College for the Creative and Cultural Industries at the Backstage Centre in Essex

Managed by Creative and Cultural Skills on behalf of a consortium of employers including Live Nation and the Royal Opera House, the National College will provide opportunities for students to train alongside professionals as they rehearse, record and film.

Each National College will have at least one major central hub – an outstanding centre of expertise which brings together cutting edge equipment, trainers with industry experience, and research and innovation expertise. Colleges across the country will specialise in related skill sets – acting as nationwide ‘spokes’ to maximise their impact across the country.

Five million pounds has been allocated for maintenance scholarships that will enable the strongest candidates from across the country to attend the new National Colleges in 2016 to 2017. Building on this, the government will subsequently develop and introduce new maintenance loans to support students at National Colleges.

The National Colleges announced will join 3 National Colleges announced earlier this year – specialising in High Speed Rail, Nuclear, and Onshore Oil and Gas. 

UK Department for Business, Innovation & Skills