FORMER Minister of Education Lord Kenneth Baker has called for educators to prioritise developing students’ technical skills as well as their academic abilities.

He was speaking at UTC@harbourside, the University Technical College in Newhaven.

Lord Baker raised the impact of Brexit on the region’s economy in his talk to representatives from Newhaven and Eastbourne Chambers of Commerce, plus local and national employers.

UTC@harbourside offers GCSE and sixth-form courses for 14 to 18-year-olds with a real interest in science, technology, engineering, maths and computing.

Its university sponsor is the University of Brighton, and it is also backed by Lewes District Council, Aldridge Education and local businesses.

Lord Baker said: “Our dependency on skilled technicians from overseas is a big issue for our economy in the light of Brexit.

“Our economy needs scientific and technical skills, not just in engineering but in sectors such as hospitality.

“As a young person you will have to have technical skills to get on in future.”

Lord Baker is co-founder of the Baker Dearing Trust which has helped establish 49 University Technical Colleges, including UTC@harbourside,

He highlighted the advantages of companies having a strong presence in education, influencing the curriculum and providing real life projects for students to test their learning on.

He said: “A student leaving a UTC is highly employable.

“They learn to work in teams. They problem-solve.

“They gain experience of the workplace and of applying their academic learning to solve real life problems.

“At a time when youth unemployment in the UK is 12 per cent, UTCs perform better than any other type of school in terms of the percentage of leavers in work, higher education/university or training.

“Better even than grammar schools. They have the qualifications and skills employers want.”

Organisations ranging from Rampion Wind Farm and the NHS to local engineering, technology and construction employers TerraPura Fairlight Coach Works and KSD attended the event.

They commited to support UTC’s students build their practical experience and CV through the UTC’s Employers Consortium.

Lewes MP Maria Caulfield, representatives from Newhaven Council and Brighton University, Youthforce and Tomorrow’s Engineers were there.

UTC students Callum Beer and Tristan Drake talked about their career goals in engineering and the leadership skills they have developed at the college.

Callum said: “The opportunities I’ve had to develop my leadership skills at the UTC are second to none.”

UTC Principal Adanma Umunna said: “We are doing things differently here. Educators and CEOs are coming together for the benefit of young people.

“Raising the next generation of scientists and engineers in Sussex begins here!”