Institutes of Technology (IoTs) remain an important part of the government's skills strategy, apprenticeships and skills minister Robert Halfon has insisted.
IoTs were first announced last year in former chancellor George Osborne’s plan as part of a strategy to boost the UK's productivity. The government said they were key to delivering the "higher-level science, technology, engineering and maths skills that local employers want and need".
No further details have been forthcoming about how IoTs will be established or operated, but the ongoing area reviews of college provision have been asked as part of their remit to consider whether existing colleges could be candidates to become IoTs.
Organisations in the sector, including the Association of Colleges and the 157 Group, were asked to develop their own plans for what IoTs would look like. In January, the former Department for Business, Innovation and Skills told TES that officials were likely to test a variety of "different institutional and governance models". But there has been no further news about IoTs since FE was brought into the Department for Education in July.
Speaking today at the launch of the UK's first digital skills college, Ada College, Mr Halfon told TES that the "idea" for IoTs was still being developed but that there would be "a number of them around the country".
Mr Halfon said: "There are going to be new Institutes of Technology as well [as National Colleges]. We’re setting out the details of that, but the idea is to have a number of Institute of Technology colleges around the country, some of them will be linked to FE [and] some of them will be FE corporations. It’s incredibly exciting because what the government is saying is we have to make sure the country has the skills that employers need that the country needs for our economic productivity.
"I think…the huge amount of investment going into National Colleges and Institutes of Technology…is creating a digital and science lab of opportunity for millions of young people, especially for those with disadvantaged backgrounds."
'The beginning of something special'
Mr Halfon also spoke about the importance of ADA College as the "forefather" of future technology institutes, and that he thought the advent of the college was something very “special”.
He told staff at the college: "It’s important because you are going to, I think, be the forefather of future technology colleges in London but in our country as well. And I hope that this is the beginning of something very special, beginning of a movement of digital technology education.
"There’s no doubt in my mind that unless young people are trained in the digital skill that they need for the future, as well as maths and English, they will not succeed in their lives. And so we can’t do the job alone. We have to work with employers and colleges to unlock the potential of what is here and unlock what is happening across the country.”
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