A multi-million pound school which aims to train the next generation of construction workers has won the support of a string of big Midland companies.
The West Midlands University Technology College (UTC), which is set to open to students in Walsall in 2014, has garnered the support of 15 key building firms.
It will offer mainstream and vocational qualifications to 600 14 to 19-year-olds and aims to provide a steady stream of workers for the construction industry.
Backers which have signed up to help mentor students and shape the curriculum include Balfour Beatty, Willmott Dixon, Lovell, Morgan Sindall, Hewden Steward and Barhale Construction.
UTC programme director Nigel Donohue said: “Our vision is to deliver an outstanding UTC, which offers both practical and academic knowledge and experience, providing future talent for the construction industry and sowing the seeds for excellence in future generations.
"With our partners, we are building the foundations for a future of high-value, skilled workers adept for a modern construction industry – so fundamental to the growth of the industry in the West Midlands.”
The UTC is sponsored by the University of Wolverhampton, Walsall College and construction industry board CITB-ConstructionSkills.
Youngsters will be offered a curriculum focused on a construction specialism alongside key GCSEs and a focus on business, entrepreneurial and employability skills. Pupils will also learn about information technology, sustainability and green technologies.
The school will be based on land at the former Sneyd Community School in Walsall, on the same site as the Black County UTC, which opened last year.
"The West Midlands UTC was given the go-ahead by the Department for Education last year as part of a drive to increase technical and vocational learning alongside traditional academic routes.
The curriculum will match the needs of construction employers and professionals to help boost student job prospects.
Judy Lowe, deputy chairman of CITB-ConstructionSkills and chairman designate of the UTC, said: “UTCs have the ability to transform the country’s prospects and students’ lives.
“They are an invaluable addition to the education landscape, because they remind us that there is an urgent need in this country to develop skills not solely academically based.”
UTCs are the brainchild of Lord Baker, who as Kenneth Baker was Conservative Education Secretary from 1986 to 1989 and now chairs the Baker-Dearing Trust, which developed the idea of technical colleges. There are now more than 10 UTCs in England, with a further 20 due to open over the next two years.
The Black Country UTC was one of the first to open last year.
It has a focus on science and engineering and, like the West Midlands UTC, is backed by the University of Wolverhampton and Walsall College.
Aston University Engineering Academy became Birmingham’s first UTC when it opened to pupils at the beginning of September.
The academy is sponsored by Aston University and was established to give 14 to 19-year-olds the chance to gain qualifications for careers in science and engineering. It has links with firms including Jaguar Land Rover, National Grid, energy firm E.ON and Rolls Royce, to allow youngsters to experience the world of work.
Students are taught from 8.30am to 5.30pm, an extra year of teaching per student by the time they leave at 19.
Jaguar Land Rover announced in June that it had teamed up with the University of Warwick as the backers for a UTC in Warwick opening in 2014.