Spring is on the horizon, the sun is threatening to break through these grey skies once and for all and while it's not so much 'out with the old' it is definitely 'in with the new' as here at the Edge Foundation we're celebrating the launch of various new projects and institutions.

The Siemens Mechatronics Academy at Barking & Dagenham College, the Sir Frank Whittle Studio School specialist logistics centre and Ayrshire College's Skills Centre of Excellence were all officially opened in February. All three of these projects were awarded funding through the Edge Innovation and Development Fund, so to see them open their doors is a great joy for us at Edge.

Also officially opened in February was Bromley College's Hospitality, Food & Enterprise Career College. The Career College will build commercial skills into the hospitality curriculum, responding to the high number of business start-ups and restaurants and the need for appropriate skills in south east London. Just as importantly, students will study mainstream subjects to a high standard and teaching staff will help them make connections between specialist and general subjects in order to boost confidence and achievement across the board.

Another exciting development was the Chancellor's announcement that two new University Technical Colleges have been approved. The Ron Dearing UTC in Hull and the Northern Futures UTC in Newcastle will offer young people aged 14-18 years the opportunity to pursue a course of study in a STEM specialism alongside traditional academic subjects.

The common theme here is the drive towards closer linking up of education with employers. Whether it's an employer-led curriculum, industry standard equipment, or industry experts doing the teaching or indeed ideally all of these, strengthening the relationship between education and the world of work is mutually beneficial.

From these projects alone, hundreds of students are set to benefit from a robust but varied education and in turn, employers at local and national levels will reap the rewards as the skilled and employment-savvy young people head into the world of work.

Edge is very privileged to be able to fund and support innovation in education in this way. Working in partnership with others who share our vision has, over the years, resulted in the creation of new types of institution and new approaches to blending academic and vocational learning.

As we head towards the general election and, inevitably, yet more periods of uncertainty for education we hope that these projects and schools join the many others across the country as beacons of excellence for technical, practical and vocational learning; so that young people can become fully aware of, and fully able to access, these alternative paths to success.

Jan Hodges OBE is chief executive of Edge, the independent education charity dedicated to raising the status of technical, practical and vocational learning


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