Wakefield has a proud history. We have produced intellectual heavyweights like Richard Fleming, the leading theologian who founded Lincoln College, Oxford, in 1427, and John Radcliffe, Royal Physician to William and Mary, and whose name identifies Oxford’s world-famous library.
Wakefield is poised to re-emerge as a centre of scholarly and skills-based achievement and excellence. Students, teachers and their families have had another challenging year, but things are already beginning to improve.
I am thrilled that, after delays, work has at last resumed on the new CAPA College buildings opposite Westgate station. CAPA College’s superb team of teachers, directors, designers and technicians spare no effort in delivering a first-class arts education to bright young minds. Now CAPA’s students will finally have their own custom-built facilities to match their own exceptional talents.
This Conservative government is levelling up Wakefield and the country, ensuring more equal opportunities for all. Across the Kingdom, new educational establishments are providing young people the skills and experiences to fulfil and maximise their potential.
One such innovative model is the University Technical College or UTC. These high-tech colleges work in partnership with universities and industry to provide students the expertise to succeed and enter the real world of work. Upon graduation, 21 per cent of UTC students gain valuable apprenticeships, compared to the national average of 6 per cent. A further 20 per cent of UTC graduates move directly into long-term employment.
Since the general election, I have devoted much time and energy learning about UTCs, putting together the necessary team to represent a credible bid, engaging with stakeholders locally, regionally and nationally.
On visits to UTCs, I have been struck by the passion and dedication of staff and the enthusiasm of students. It is the all-pervasive belief in themselves to achieve, and their place of learning and confidence in their community, that makes me believe a UTC in Wakefield would be a superb asset.
A UTC would allow us to equip the next generation with high-tech skills and help turn our city into a magnet for skilled technology jobs. I have already had several meetings with ministers and others and in the coming months, I will update you on our progress.
There is so much more to education than jumping through hoops and ticking boxes. Education provides hope. With hope, we develop ambition, and ambition drives achievement. Skills and knowledge are central to all of us getting better jobs, owning homes and protecting our streets from crime. Education makes our lives better and our futures brighter.
It is only through providing our young people with the education they deserve and require, that we will transform the UK into a more productive, economically competitive, skills-based superpower, a vibrant hub for growth, innovation and learning.
West Yorkshire was at the vanguard of the industrial revolution. I have no doubt that our native creativity and enterprise will lead us to even greater achievements. I believe with every fibre of my being that our future will be as brilliant as our past was glorious.