The UK's first vocational health and educational facility opened yesterday at a school in Birmingham.

HealthTec, based at Harborne Hill School, aims to promote health and science by encouraging young people to explore a variety of employment opportunities in the NHS.

It will give 14 to 19-year-olds access to "real life" situations in an authentic health and social care setting, which will include a doctor's surgery and the inside of an ambulance.

HealthTec was formed through a partnership between Birmingham and The Black Country Strategic Health Authority, the South West Area Network, Birmingham City Council and hospitals and schools in the region.

Andy Wright, Harborne Hill School's headteacher, said: "This exciting initiative offers not only education into health care and life sciences but also raises the awareness of young people about the range of employment opportunities within the health sector.

"The centre will be able to offer a full range of learning opportunities in a very realistic setting for the South West area of Birmingham."

Cathy O' Sullivan, associate director of workforce education and learning at Birmingham and The Black Country Strategic Health Authority, said young people were the future workforce of local health services.

"With the introduction of patient choice and the expansion of local health services, combined with the challenge of a large proportion of our workforce retiring over the next 10-15 years, it is crucial that we engage the interest of young people in NHS jobs before and while they make their career decisions," she said.

Coun Les Lawrence, cabinet member for education and lifelong learning at Birmingham City Council, said: "The opening of this innovative vocational centre for young people, to enable them to become aware of the opportunities within the modern day NHS, is another major step in providing a network of such centres covering different sectors to raise the esteem and value of vocational education and its importance to the long term future of this city.

"Utilising the skills of our teachers and the expertise of those in the Health Service, this innovative project in conjunction with the young people who will use the centre, will become an exemplar for developing flexible learning environments suited to the individual needs of young people."