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I can’t say how thrilled and honoured I am to be joining the Biztech management board in my capacity as Principal of the new South Central Institute of Technology (SCIoT) in Bletchley.  People may well have heard about the SCIoT but could be forgiven (especially in these physically disconnected times) for not knowing much about it.  If Biztech is where business meets tech, the SCIoT is where business meets tech meets education.

The government website says of Institutes of Technology that they are, “New employer-led institutes of technology will offer higher level technical education to help close skills gaps in key STEM areas.”  Essentially the Department for Education launched a competition in which Further Education colleges bid for funding for these new institutions and a consortium led by Milton Keynes College was one of those chosen.  We have a stunning collection of dozens of partners from industry both local and global, including Microsoft, KPMG, McAfee and many other household names as well as less well-known ones which also bring tremendous value to the team.

Courses are designed in collaboration with business to ensure that the skills we teach at the SCIoT are the ones that are needed in Milton Keynes now.  We’re providing Higher Education (HE) courses including higher technical apprenticeships where students work and study simultaneously, qualifying after two years rather than the four required for a degree apprenticeship.  We don’t go by the traditional terms but instead have four ten week blocks of study time.  Flexibility is key; learners study in day or night time, full or part-time.  They can work on a range of modules one after the other or dip in and out picking one ten week course of study after the next as and when it suits them and their employers.  We specialise in recruiting dual professionals to the teaching staff; people from industry, often coming from those anchor partners, who can bring up-to-date knowledge of what’s crucial to their sectors today.  Students work on real-world problems provided by employers so their outputs can at once be part of their education and fulfilling a necessary function for their companies.  In short, the job of the SCIoT is to open up the talent pipelines for local companies in areas where the skills gap is most evident and to work by narrowing the gap between education and employers so that we only teach what they need.

Before joining the SCIoT I worked for a Further Education College group called Activate Learning based in Oxford and Reading (another vital partner in the venture) as Director of the Faculty of Technology and spent much of my time then as now aiming to bridge the gap between education and employers – so I’ve seen very much at first hand how both sides benefit from close ties.  The recently released Skills for Jobs government White Paper specifically emphasises the need to “Give employers a greater say in the development of skills,” which is really heartening.  There’s a genuine momentum growing behind the idea that FE is key and of equal value to the university sector when it comes to the skills, knowledge and behaviours most desperately needed by the UK economy. 

We’re always on the lookout for new ways to help and collaborate and new business partners to join us, so if you want to open up your people and skills strategies or have any questions or ideas I might be able to help with, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Alex Warner, Principal,  Institute of Technology at Milton Keynes College