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UTC hosts business breakfast for Rochester MP and local employers

Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst and Kent business leaders talked technical education and apprenticeships at a Gillingham school business breakfast earlier this month.

Waterfront UTC hosted organisations including aerospace company BAE Systems and construction firm Willmott Dixon to discuss how to bridge the gap between educators and employers.

Developing apprenticeship opportunities was high up on the agenda as the event took place on Friday 2nd February, the eve of National Apprenticeship Week, an England-wide celebration of the popular training courses which this year is running between the 5th and 11th of February.

Around a third of Waterfront UTC’s leavers progressed onto an apprenticeship last summer, almost seven times the national average.

The event, chaired by Tolhurst, also discussed T Levels, the new technical equivalent to A-levels, which include a 45-day industry placement.

Waterfront UTC, a University Technical College specialising in construction and engineering, plans to deliver T Levels.

A group of individuals sit on one side of a long table opposite another table of fruit, plates and napkins.
Left to right: Clive Barker, UTC governor; Kelly Tolhurst MP; Fiona McLean, UTC Head of School; Kate Ambrosi, Baker Dearing Educational Trust.

Employers thank UTC for ‘fascinating’ discussion

Business representatives welcomed the breakfast, with Clague Architects’ Seb Willett calling it “fascinating,” adding that it was “great to hear of so many initiatives to get young people into the industry.”

Georgie Gaynor from the CITB (Construction Industry Training Board) said it was “a great event,” and her organisation “can’t wait to attend the next one and start to make an impact on the challenges we are currently facing.”

The organisations which attended the breakfast included:

  • The Baker Dearing Educational Trust
  • BAE Systems
  • Clague Architects
  • O’Halloran and O’Brien
  • CITB
  • FM Conway Ltd
  • Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce
  • Gallagher Group
  • Redrow
  • Willmott Dixon

Speaking after the breakfast, Kelly Tolhurst MP commented:

“I was very pleased to hear from some fantastic students at Waterfront UTC and chair a roundtable breakfast business meeting with several key employers engaged with the UTC. It is marvellous to be attending a meeting of willing employers in an educational setting.

“The UTC is very important to our economy, linking the aspirations of students and the employment and skills needs of local employers, especially those in the engineering and construction sectors. I wish UTCs were around when I was at school.

“Since it opened, I have championed Waterfront UTC and I’m delighted to see how it is driving up standards and improving business engagement between education and employers.

“It was very encouraging to hear how many employers are embracing the T Level qualifications. Employers should be encouraged to work together on the career opportunities around T Levels and apprenticeship programmes.”

Waterfront UTC Head of School Fiona McLean commented:

“Our business breakfast was a fantastic success, bringing together the area’s political and business leaders to find new ways to support young people and bridge local skills gaps.

“We always appreciate when our brilliant local employers take part in these discussions as it allows us to benefit from their expertise and shows their willingness to help the local community.

“We look forward to hosting similar events in the future.”