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Colleges report growth in STEM subjects

Enrolments in science, technology, engineering and maths in FE and sixth-form colleges are on the rise, according to a survey by the Association of Colleges (AoC). More than half of colleges say the number of under-18s on engineering courses has risen, while only 12 per cent saw a decline. At more than a third of colleges, science and maths courses have also seen greater recruitment. "Colleges are clearly responding to economic imperatives, both locally and nationally, and to encouragement from government," said Martin Doel, chief executive of the AoC. But he said that continuing problems in some colleges over the recruitment of students at level 1, where 20 per cent of colleges saw a decline in numbers, meant that vulnerable students could be missing out on education.

Gateshead staff strike over working hours

Staff at Gateshead College, near Newcastle upon Tyne, became the latest to go on strike in a dispute over working hours in proposed new contracts. According to the University and College Union (UCU), the contracts would mean that some lecturers teach 33 hours a week; including preparation time, that would bring the total working week to 50 hours. The union says this would violate the European working time directive, which sets a cap of 48 hours a week. "These contracts have removed any meaningful protection for our members and can only lead to widespread stress and sickness," said UCU regional official Iain Owens. But Gateshead disputes the union's claims, saying that lecturers' contracts remain at 37 hours a week in total, although there is no cap on how much of that is contact time in the classroom.

Students to fire up the ovens of the future

Global electronics giant Samsung has opened a new vocational academy with Birmingham Metropolitan College to train students in high-tech industries. The Samsung Experience Academy, opened on Wednesday by FE minister Matthew Hancock, will offer NVQs at levels 2 and 3, along with Higher National Certificates and profession diplomas. Students will learn to develop applications for smart TVs, mobile devices and even new internet-enabled appliances such as washing machines and ovens. The academy in Kidderminster, Worcestershire, is the latest collaboration between Samsung and Birmingham Metropolitan, which already has an academy dedicated to developing and maintaining "white goods" such as washing machines and cookers. "High-tech industries strengthen our global competitiveness and are important drivers of growth. It is centres such as the Samsung academy that will ensure the future workforce is at the forefront of technological innovation," said Mr Hancock.

Squad UK brings the metal home from EuroSkills

Britain's team for skills competitions, Squad UK, returned from EuroSkills 2012 in Belgium with five medals, putting them in eighth place out of the 22 competing nations. Gold medals were won in hairdressing and carpentry, with a silver in visual merchandising and bronzes in painting and stonemasonry. EuroSkills was used as part of the training programme for next year's WorldSkills in Germany, where the UK will aim to build on its best-ever performance of fifth place, achieved last year in London. "It is amazing to have won the gold medal in hairdressing and to be named 'best in nation' for Squad UK at EuroSkills. This is such a confidence boost and I hope it will help my career and show other young people that with determination and practice they too can have great careers," said 21- year-old Hannah Clague, who trains with Red Edge Training Company.

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