We must give our young people the skills they need to fill the employment gap

Our aim is for all 16- and 18-year-olds to get a job or apprenticeship, go to university or do A-levels

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The Independent Online

We have one million young people unemployed and are issuing visas to people from overseas who have the skills we need – it is about time that we filled this gap with our own young people.

That is why, over the past four years, the Baker Dearing Educational Trust has been promoting University Technical Colleges for 14- to 18-year-olds. They have a working day from 8.30am to 5pm and for almost half the week they learn with their hands, designing and making things, working on projects and problem-solving; the rest of their time they study GCSEs in English, maths and science. Universities come in to teach and mentor, and local employers provide challenging projects for the students, that help with the learning.

Seventeen UTCs are now open, 27 are being developed, and we are assessing a further 15. Each college has two Stem (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) specialities: at Plymouth it is marine engineering and advanced manufacturing; at Elstree, entertainment and digital technologies; at Liverpool, life sciences; at Bristol, engineering and environmental technology; at Silverstone, motor engineering; at Reading, computer science and software engineering.

We have a simple target: when students leave at 16 or 18, they don’t join the ranks of the unemployed. They stay on for A-levels, or get a job, or an apprenticeship or a university place. So far we have met that target – no Neets. No wonder that David Cameron said: “Let’s have one of these colleges in every single major town.”

Today, we are taking the next step by launching Career Colleges for 14- to 19-year-olds to deal with the non-Stem subjects such as catering, hospitality, tourism, finance and insurance, health and care, cultural and creative arts, sport and events management, and construction. By starting at 14, youngsters have a head-start in preparing for the world of work as they do in Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands, where youth unemployment is much lower.

In a speech today at the Edge annual lecture, Matthew Hancock, the Skills and Enterprise minister, will call for more elite vocational colleges, and Career Colleges fit the bill.

FE Colleges will be able to set these up as separate institutions with local employers involved in the design and delivery of the curriculum. The first one will be in Oldham next year, the Digital and Creative Career College. That will soon be followed by the Bromley Food & Enterprise Career College, because hospitality is the third largest sector for jobs in south-east London, with new hotels, restaurants and leisure complexes. Its students will work in state-of-the-art industrial kitchens making meals to be served in a stunning, new town-centre restaurant. The College will be open from 8.30am and will serve food until 9pm.

Another in Oxford will cover human-health activities, nursing care for the elderly, residential care and social care in the community. Training will take place “on the ward” or the appropriate clinical setting to replace the traditional classroom. There is an early proposal for a Career College to cover sports science and the management of sporting events. A further proposal is also being developed for the cultural and creative industries, to train young people in the technologies of the entertainment world, which is crucial to Britain’s economy.

The over-arching goal for a Career College is that every young person when they leave at either 16 or 19 will be in work, training or education.