UTC Heathrow Launches First Data Centre Focussed Curriculum for 14-19-year-olds

Nov 12, 2021

UTC Heathrow has unveiled its much-awaited exclusive new Digital Futures Programme – an exciting curriculum aimed at giving students the best possible start to a career within the Digital Infrastructure Industry.  

This is a first for the industry – no other school or college is currently running this programme, so it is hugely exciting for UTC Heathrow to be able to offer its students this fantastic opportunity. 

Developed in collaboration with leading industry organisations, the Digital Futures Programme allows students to gain the essential knowledge and skills needed to thrive in technical careers within the data centre sector. This sector is currently experiencing unprecedented growth, which is only set to continue, but is facing an on-going skills shortage. This new programme will help to future-proof the industry by inspiring a new generation to join it and enjoy a rewarding career.   

The programme curriculum has been carefully designed in close collaboration with global industry organisations: CNet Training (CNet), VIRTUS Data Centres, CyrusOne, CBRE, Amazon Web Services (AWS), LMG, ARK Data Centres (Crown Hosting Data Centres Limited) and Yondr, who have all committed funding and resources to the programme to guarantee students receive a first-class technical education.  

The programme also ensures students have a direct line of sight into a rewarding career, while giving participating organisations a unique opportunity to contribute to educating the next generation of data centre talent. This will make certain that the students gain the much sought-after skills that these businesses need and sets in motion the longer-term steps required to tackle the skills shortage.     

The idea for the Digital Futures Programme came from a meeting between Andrew Stevens, President and CEO of CNet, and the Baker Dearing Trust, an organisation which develops UTCs. After shaping the proposition, Andrew worked with trade association TechUK and UTC Heathrow to build a collective of like-minded organisations who wanted to get involved and collaborate on this dynamic educational programme.  

“The skills gap is not getting any easier for the digital infrastructure industry. We all need to work together and do it in a way that will make a real difference at a time when young people need inspiration, support, and the opportunity to secure a career with huge opportunities,” says Andrew. 

“This is a problem that the industry can only tackle head-on by working collectively; we need to showcase the amazing career opportunities within the data centre sector and help young people to prepare for and access them.” 

Emma Fryer, Associate Director at TechUK, said: “I’m absolutely delighted that data centre operators are pulling together as a team to define and deliver a meaningful long-term benefit for the sector – a pipeline of young talent with the skills we need.” 

Lord Baker, chairman of the Baker Dearing Trust, was impressed with the quality of the programme, saying: “The commitment from leading global organisations to launch the Digital Futures Programme is a clear demonstration that the UTC education model has real value.   

“It creates a blueprint for how STEM sectors can engage strategically with education to build sustainable skills pipelines. It puts the local commercial and industrial companies at the heart of education. They know what skills their young employees must have and that is what a UTC does. This is an excellent example for many schools across the country.” 

The annual Digital Futures Programme intake is limited to 100 students at age 14, and 150 students studying the Level 3 engineering curriculum. Younger students will compete in industry-led Challenge Days, develop employability skills, and receive masterclasses to bring subjects to life, alongside studying for their GCSEs. Meanwhile older students will complete team projects within the curriculum, and benefit from building impactful relationships with industry professionals. Students will leave UTC Heathrow with a BTEC Level 3 National Diploma/Extended Diplomas in Engineering and Aeronautical Engineering (NQF). 

To ensure that the programme remains relevant and adapts continuously, the participating organisations will meet the UTC Heathrow team every half term to review, improve, and add to the programme content as needed. 

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