Plans to train hundreds of kids on estates as apprentices in law, architecture and cyber-security have been unveiled.
Sir Keith Burnett, vice chancellor of Sheffield University, said new training centres could give youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds the chance of a university education without racking up tens of thousands of pounds in debt.
It could be the answer to the skills crisis affecting many industries and could also lure big employers desperate for well-trained staff to the region.
Sir Keith, who leads the £500million turnover organisation, said the success of its Training Centre for apprentices, on the Advanced Manufacturing Park at Catcliffe, could be replicated.
Opened three years ago, it trains 600 youngsters who all have jobs with local firms.
And it was a way to keep the university, which has a global reputation for teaching and research, ‘relevant’ to local people.
Sir Keith said: “The most important thing is there will be jobs for kids on estates.
“We are very interested as a university in including more people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“And how do we find new ways for the people of Sheffield to come to university without debt? Apprentices are part of the answer.
“We are seen as a leader with the training centre for manufacturing and we want to expand that into law, architecture and cyber-security.
“The crucial thing employers want is a skills base – a plentiful supply of highly-trained, capable people in industry.”
Sir Keith said the university was working with Sheffield-based big data company WANdisco on the possibility of training in cyber-security. They had also spoken to Government listening post GCHQ Scarborough and the Bank of England.
He added: “We would do it organically and sensibly. We don’t know how it would work out, you’ve just got to try. It’s too easy for institutions to be separate from the community. We are working to make sure we are relevant.”