Transformation underway to create education centre

Building: Sydney Works will become part of the new Sheffield University Technical College.                               Picture Steve Parkin
Building: Sydney Works will become part of the new Sheffield University Technical College. Picture Steve Parkin
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Sheffield University Technical College will be built on the site of a car park on Shoreham Street, close to Sheffield Station.

The 60,000 sq ft College will incorporate Sydney Works, a former silversmith’s on Matilda Street, dating back to the 1860s, which was latterly used as a recording studio.

More than 20 people have applied for the job of principal of the Sheffield University Technical College and eight shortlisted candidates are being interviewed this week.

Preparatory work for the project has been carried out by Sheffield-based architects Race Cottam Associates and Blue Sky, which has offices in Stockport and Accrington.

Tenders for the design and construction of the College have to be submitted by next Monday (March 19) and work is due to start in the autumn, with the aim of the College opening in September 2013.

College facilities will include an Engineering and Manufacturing Centre, Creative and Digital Centre and a “Creative Exchange.”

The Engineering and Manufacturing Centre will comprise an electronics workshop, three materials workshops, three “mini-factories” and a CNC machining room.

The Creative and Digital Centre will have three media studios, two general studios, a media lab with editing and production facilities and a computing suite.

The Creative Exchange is intended to encourage cross over between the two core areas of study. It will include three design studios, one prototyping and testing facility and two computer aided design and manufacturing (CADCAM) suites.

Sheffield University Technical College aims to recruit 300 students in its first year and will eventually have 600 students – 400 engineering and manufacturing students and 200 creative and digital.

Students will be admitted at 14 and 16, with the 14 year olds expected to emerge at 16 with five GCSEs at grades A* to C, including Maths, English and a foreign language, and a Level 2 Diploma or other relevant vocational qualification.

The 16 year olds will leave at 18 or 19 with at least two A levels, a Level 3 vocational Diploma or other relevant vocational qualification and “incomparable work readiness” in the words of Andrew Cropley, the executive director of Sheffield College who is spearheading the project.

Students will be admitted at 14 using similar selection-free guidelines that are used when an 11 year old goes to secondary school, but will face a more challenging curriculum than if they had stayed at an ordinary school.

The teaching day will start at 8:30 am and carry on to 5:50pm, while the educational year will last for 40 weeks, instead of 38, allowing them to cram an extra year of learning in, during the standard four years they will spend at the College.

Each week for the 14 to 16 year olds will comprise two and a half days of core education, preparing them for GCSE, one and a half days of specialist studies to build up their engineering and manufacturing or digital and creative skills and a further day of project support work, aimed at helping them complete the real life projects set by businesses that get involved with the College.

Meanwhile, the 16 to 19 year olds will spend two and a half days on specialist studies, a day and a half learning what they need to know to pass A-Levels and a day of project support work.

Employers are being urged to back the University Technical College in a number of ways, including leading or collaborating on projects which link the students’ academic and practical studies by setting them challenges from the real world to solve.

The College wants business to host visits, run master classes, sponsor students and apprenticeship places, and join an Employers’ Reference Group that ensures its students emerge with the skills businesses need.

Last, but not least, the College is seeking business sponsors for buildings, rooms and facilities and donations in cash or kind.

University Technical Colleges get their “university” appellation because each College has to be formally linked with a university, which can help with coaching the students

Sheffield University Technical College has direct links with Sheffield Hallam University, but the team behind the project also includes Sheffield University and Sheffield College, as well as the city’s Chamber of Commerce.