UK gov collaborates with industry on £170m tech institutes

Employer-led Institutes of Technology aim to boost T-level qualification uptake

UK parliament

The UK government has announced that 12 employer-led institutes of technology will be set up around the country to address the growing digital skills gap.

The institutes will represent collaborations between universities, further educations colleges and high profile firms, such as Microsoft and Siemens. As part of the announcement, the government is also changing technical education in general with new "T levels" - a technical equivalent to A levels - which will come in 2020.

The idea is that the T levels will offer higher technical training in STEM subjects, such as digital skills, advanced manufacturing and engineering and offer more young people the chance to progress to higher level qualifications that lead to highly skilled, rewarding jobs.

There's little detail on the locations of the institutions, but the government has named some of the collaborations, such as Milton Keynes College and Cranfield University working with Microsoft and New College Durham and Newcastle University partnering with Nissan. 

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Education Secretary Damian Hinds called the institutes the "pinnacle of technical training" and said they would provide young people with the skills to build lucrative and rewarding careers while boosting the economy.

"I'm determined to properly establish higher technical training in this country," said Hinds. "So that it's recognised and sought after by employers and young people alike. These Institutes are a key part of delivering this.

"Institutes of Technology will help employers to get the skilled workforce they need, especially in much sought-after STEM skills and will offer young people a clear path to a great, well-paid career."

According to government research, only around 7% of people in England aged between 18 and 65 are undertaking training at Level 4 or 5. Only around 190,000 people are currently studying for qualifications at this level compared with around 2 million studying across Level 3, which is A level or equivalent, and Level 6 - Degree level.

The government is answering this with 170 million of investment in these institutes that will tap into the latest research from their university partners to anticipate the skills needs of the future workplace.

They will also benefit from additional support from employers and partners, such as Microsoft, who will work with Milton Keynes College to transform part of Bletchley Park, home of the World War Two Codebreakers, into one of these Institutes of Technology. Funding will be used to refurbish Block D at the historic site, which was home to famous codebreakers including Alan Turing and the famous Enigma machine.

"In a world being transformed by technology, today's students have a wealth of opportunity to create and solve problems through learning and applying computer science," said Derrick McCourt, GM, customer success unit at Microsoft.

"Microsoft's collaborations with Milton Keynes College and Cranfield University are helping to develop the next generation of digital experts. This announcement is a hugely positive step forward in ensuring that students and employers are armed with the digital skills they want and need -- both now and in the future."

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