Will Barker, a Sixth Form student, holds a UTC frame

I was among the first cohort of students to join UTC South Durham in September 2016, when it initially opened. I was very apprehensive at first, as I was the only one in my friendship group that decided to follow a specialised STEM pathway. I need not have worried at all. The teaching and support staff at the UTC did all they could to smooth the transition for all students. It was the best decision I made. 

During my 4 years at the UTC, I was treated as a young adult and encouraged to see staff as colleagues and call them by their first names. The design of the building makes it feel more like work than school and the longer school day and business dress code prepared us better for the world of work. 

Alongside compulsory subjects like English, Maths and Science, I was able to study Engineering, Manufacturing and Design and TechnologyUTC South Durham has a particular focus on Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing and I was allowed to thrive in this environment, using specialised equipment and guided by staff with specialist technical skills and knowledge. I particularly enjoyed the industry led projects that we took part in and found it beneficial to visit industries and meet with professionals from the Engineering industry. This helped us better understand what employers are looking for and to be better prepared for the world of work. 

In Year 10, I was encouraged to further develop my professional skills by taking part in a 2 week work experience placement; the UTC fully supported me when I decided that I wanted to do this in an Engineering company in California!

In Year 12, my work experience took place in Teescraft Engineering. As a result of this, I then continued to do a work experience placement for one day a week, whilst still studying at the UTC. I was then offered a full time position there when I finished my A Levels. 

Fast forward 4 years and not only have I successfully secured all of my GCSE and A Level grades, I’m now working full time as Quality Control Engineer for Teescraft, a local Engineering company based in Bishop Auckland, County Durham. 

I firmly believe that without the support and guidance of UTC South Durham’s staff, I wouldn’t be in this position today. The UTC provided me not only with a fantastic academic and technical education, I also felt confident and fully prepared for the world of work, as we were helped to build our professional and workplace skills, something I don’t think would have happened in a mainstream school.