£10m engineering skills college to close after three years

UNIVERSITY Technical College Lancashire in Burnley will close in August after being open just three years, due to a lack of students.

The £10.3m UTC, which focuses on construction and engineering skills, said it has struggled to recruit the number of students necessary to secure future financial viability.

The college had just 113 pupils on its roll, despite having a capacity of 800. Its pupil numbers had fallen from 120 since 2014/15, according to government data released earlier this year.

The college on Trafalgar Street is in a restored Victoria Mill and has been lauded as the flagship in the redevelopment of that part of town.

Rod Dubrow-Marshall, member of the trust board said: “The announcement to close UTC Lancashire is hugely disappointing to the trust, senior leadership team and all those who have worked so hard to give students the opportunity to pursue a technical education.

“Unfortunately although we have made every attempt to try to find an alternative solution, the board agreed that closure was the only available option due to low student numbers.

“The wellbeing and success of students remains our highest priority and we hope by announcing this news promptly following the decision we can give students, parents, carers and staff the maximum time possible to make alternative plans for September.”

The UTC added that HR support and guidance will be offered to all staff and measures will be taken to ensure student transition is as smooth as possible with minimum interruption to their ongoing education.

It is not the first UTC to be closed – Hackney UTC in London and Black Country UTC in Walsall both closed last August, citing problems recruiting pupils while earlier this year Central Bedfordshire UTC announced it too would cease operating this summer.

The news comes a week after the Federation of Master Builders has warned of a chronic shortage of skills across the region’s building firms – with bricklayers commanding salaries of up to £45,000.

UTCs are government-funded colleges offering 14 to 19-year-olds an alternative education to tradition schools. They were set up to teach students technical and academic subjects in an innovative and creative way within a work-based context, aiming to educate the inventors, engineers, scientists and technicians of tomorrow.