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Aston University Engineering Academy Media Lanuch

Left to right: Professor Julia King, Lord Kenneth Baker, Lee Kilgour, Councillor Mike Whitby, Professor Alison Halstead

The official countdown to September 2012, which will see the first major university sponsored University Technical College (UTC) in the country - the Aston University Engineering Academy - open its doors to students, started on Tuesday 13 September at an event held at Birmingham Science Park Aston to mark the occasion.

When the £15.2m Aston University Engineering Academy opens in a year’s time it will play a crucial role in delivering knowledge and skills through engineering and science for 600 pupils aged between 14 and 19 years old. Academy students will specialise in engineering and science alongside core subjects in English, maths and languages. Students will have the opportunity to work with Aston University engineering staff and students as well as local and national industry. Large, medium and small private sector companies as well as large public sector organisations are all playing a valuable role, with employers such as National Grid, E.ON and Rolls Royce Plc providing high quality work placements, student mentoring, allowing Academy students to use specialist facilities, as well as inspiring students to pursue a career in their industry.

The Academy is being created in partnership with Birmingham City Council and will work closely with secondary schools across Birmingham to create clear progression routes to higher education or directly into industry. GCSEs, A levels, Diplomas and a wide range of accreditation, matched to the learner, will be taught.

Lord Kenneth Baker, Chair of the Baker-Dearing Educational Trust said: "This is the beginning of the UTC movement. Back in 2008 Aston University, Birmingham City Council and local employers came together to create a new type of college that combined first class training with excellent academic study. It will be the first of many UTCs - soon there will be over 20. Birmingham has led the way."   

Lee Kilgour, Principal Designate of Aston University Engineering Academy believes that young people with an excellent technical education will be essential for ensuring that the UK can lead the world in designing and using new technologies. Lee said: “The Engineering Academy is seeking to recruit young people with a passion and interest in engineering and science. We have been working closely with industry to develop an exciting and engaging curriculum. The new Academy will provide company supported apprenticeships alongside Diplomas and A levels and will play a key role in addressing the technical skills gap. The specialist education offered by the Academy will ensure that the UK has the skilled employees needed for essential future projects such as building wind farms, developing carbon–efficient housing and designing high speed rail links.

Professor Alison Halstead, Pro Vice Chancellor for Learning and Teaching at Aston University believes that raising the aspirations of young engineers and developing an innovative workforce for the region and beyond is vital. Speaking at the event she said: “This is the culmination of four years planning between local employers, university staff and the local authority to create this inspirational learning environment for young scientists and engineers in Birmingham. The new Aston University sponsored Engineering Academy  will play a key role in addressing the nation’s skills gap and fostering an enthusiasm for science and engineering that will enable us to produce a new generation of innovated and talented students.”

Mike Whitby, Leader of Birmingham City Council said: “As Leader of the City, and Chairman of the Science Park, it is a great pleasure to be welcoming the Aston University Engineering Academy Birmingham into our educational family.  Birmingham has the youngest population of any city in Europe, with immense potential - if we invest wisely in our youth. Having a world-class teaching facility like this, that will provide our children with the skills they need to meet the challenges of tomorrow; will be a formidable asset for the city and the region. This is why I have long been a supporter of the project, and have ensured the City Council plays a leading role in bringing the Engineering Academy – the first of its kind in the UK – to Birmingham.”

For further information about the Aston University Engineering Academy, please contact Lee Kilgour on ext 4643, email lee.kilgour@aston.ac.uk or visit www.auea.co.uk.

Words by Louise Russell
19 Septemember 2011