Launching Mechatronics at UTC

Our new Mechantronics Lab is up and running and it’s brilliant.  Following our opening event toward the end of last year, when we hosted HRH The Duke of Kent to open the Lab, our students and staff have been busy.  We have superb equipment which covers robotics, production line control, pneumatics and programming.  These are all cutting edge technologies which companies need to stay competitive and there are superb careers out there for young people who develop this expertise.  This is the first year of our Tech Level Mechatronics course (which is a Level 3 course, the equivalent of two A-levels) and we have a very strong first cohort.

The equipment has been chosen in collaboration with our employers and the course designed around our students and industry projects.  Mike and Jessie, our mechatronics and systems specialists, and our business and site team have worked hard to put everything in place and it’s very exciting to get up and running.

His Royal Highness was very impressed by the facilities at the UTC and by the maturity and confidence of our students and I enjoyed his enthusiasm for technical education.  What he saw was very impressive and demonstrated well the highly employable young people who are developing at the UTC.  A copy of my speech is below.

It’s a moment to stop and think about how we have established ourselves over the last couple of years and the education our students experience.  In particular, I’m humbled by the dedication of our incredibly impressive and passionate staff team.  Their hard work is creating a different concept of education for young people in the North East and I am very grateful to them.

Sadly, I have a well-earned reputation for breaking our specialist equipment (including the plaque-revealing robot during HRH’s visit) so I’m banned from playing with the new kit!  I’ll leave it to our students…

TD – December 18

Visit by the HRH The Duke of Kent – October 2018

Your Royal Highness

We are delighted that you have been able to join us today to meet our students and staff, see our facilities and, in a moment, to open our new Mechatronics Lab.  You have now met several of our young adults and I hope that you have a strong impression of the education that they undertake and the aspirations they have for their future careers. 

The UTC was set up by three impressive organisations - the University of Sunderland, Hitachi Rail Europe and Gestamp Tallent - because they recognised that there is a skills gap; there are not enough bright young people, ready for work and well set for careers in industry.  We have been joined by many other employers and our student numbers are growing.  Students join us from across 7 counties to be here every day.  It is not the easy option - they take on a longer working week as well as significant travel - and they should be applauded for the commitment they are showing.  Our first cohorts of students left this summer; all who wanted to go to university have secured places on a range of technical courses; the majority have moved on to apprenticeships in local or regional based companies.  It is testament to the staff at the UTC and the academic, technical and careers education they have delivered, that these students have launched successfully into the next phase of their careers.  I’d like to publicly thank them.

One very focused area of growth for us is the launch of our new Mechatronics course.  Mechatronics is the combination of electronics engineering and mechanical engineering.  We recently hosted a visit by the President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Carolyn Griffiths, and she acknowledged that the traditional engineering sectors are no longer as clearly defined as they used to be.  The World Economic Forum publishes a report each year called ‘The Future of Jobs’ which suggests that 2/3 of these young people will end up working in jobs which don’t yet exist.  The sectors of Engineering, Architecture, Computing and Mathematics are the biggest growth areas of new work.

In teaching Mechatronics we are also responding to regional industry need; companies are saying that they can’t find the skills in these key areas.  Crucially we have been teaching systems and control to our younger students for the last two years and this is the first year we have had a group capable of taking on the more advanced course – you have just met them.  We have designed the course around their interests and skills - the talent pipeline has begun.

So, we thank you for being with us here today to open the Mechatronics Lab and to help give these young people the opportunity to take a crucial next step in their careers. Your Royal Highness may I now ask you to unveil the plaque celebrating your visit to UTC South Durham and opening our Mechatronics Lab.