One of the things I'm really excited about at the moment is the forthcoming introduction of University Technical Colleges. The aim is to have 20 of them up and running but 2012 with up to 40 eventually being established.
In brief, these are establishments for students aged 14-19 which will focus on more vocational style education with a heavy emphasis on science, engineering, technology and mathematics. They're to be sponsored by universities, FE colleges and local businesses in addition to state funding, which should help improve the educational system.
Anyone who wants to will be able to choose to go to one of the new UTCs which I think is a great idea. To put it simply, some people aren't quite as interested in the more academic side of things and want to learn in a hands-on, practical environment. As it happens, I'm one of them. I can and have done academic learning but I learn a lot better when I can see things put into practice and actually develop my skills through hands-on work rather than from text books. UTCs will provide a great alternative to those who don't want to go to grammar or secondary schools and instead want to focus on learning skills which interest them and which will be of direct value when they enter employment.
The concept of a technical college is an old one which has never been successfully implemented in the UK before but which is widespread in Europe. Germany, in particular, has a very strong technical education system which is one of the reasons for their success in engineering and the sciences.
If we want to have a balanced, high-tech economy, one which does not depend on the City and the parasitical wealth leached off of financial transfers then we need an education system which can provide technically skilled and adept individuals. As an engineering student I wish these UTCs had been around when I was at school and I envy the youngsters who will be lucky enough to attend them. I fully support this scheme and look upon it as something which the Coalition has got absolutely spot on. The UK and our economy will be all the stronger for the establishment of these UTCs and I think that everyone who cares about our position globally in the sciences and engineering can be very optimistic as a result.