In light of the announcement that Swindon College is on the Government’s Institute of Technology shortlist I am delighted at how Swindon’s bid is shaping up.
First announced in 2016, the Government has made £170m available to existing education providers such as FE colleges to establish new ‘Institutes of Technology’ across England.
Due to open their doors in 2020, Government’s thinking is to develop a distinct, technical educational offering at further and higher levels (levels 4-7), as part of a broader STEM skills agenda.
In addition to specialist technical skills and training, Institutes will offer management training such as project management. The Swindon IoT has submitted a bid based on three specialisms – advanced engineering & manufacturing, digital and life sciences.
Despite tough competition, Swindon College is one of 16 established further education providers out of 35 nationwide to be progressed to Stage 2 of the bidding process. This was after approximately 100 expressions of interest were originally submitted.
I am hopeful that Swindon stands in good stead in terms of achieving Institute of Technology status, judging by the Government’s eligibility criteria. As mentioned, IoT’s will need to be established education providers with the managerial and administrative influence to successfully deliver such an ambitious project.
Furthermore, successful IoT’s need ‘anchor employers’ who will need to commit to providing input and support to the development of the necessary courses especially in STEM related subjects that clearly match business needs.
In Swindon and Wiltshire, Excalibur Communications, Nationwide, Catalent Pharma Solutions and Bath ASU have stepped up to the plate and my thanks go out to them. Others, including Business West have registered as partners.
Finally, successful bidders would need to demonstrate impact at a regional and sub-regional level. The College has struck up close partnerships with both SWLEP and GFirst LEP and the Universities of Gloucestershire and Oxford Brookes to help deliver this bid for Swindon.
This is an exciting development for the town, which given youth unemployment rates is desperately needed. Not only will an IoT help bridge skills gaps for employers, it will boost the confidence of our young people - improving awareness of STEM career pathways in Swindon and creating parity of aspiration between academic and technical education.
Before the final successful bids are announced later this year, all the partners in the bid process will be supporting the final round of the stage 2 process commencing in July.