The study team visited 10 UTCs, three in the north of England, three in the midlands and four in the south of England, interviewing leaders, staff, pupils, employers and sponsoring universities. There was evidence of considerable employer awareness and presence at all the UTCs visited. This included informing the curriculum with current industry skills needs; observation and experience of everyday industry activity; genuine, authentic challenges or problems for young people to solve; ongoing, regular input into projects; provision of visits to employers’ workplaces; employer talks; resources and facilities; and specialist sector expertise.
However, the UTCs studied acknowledged that they face challenges in recruiting suitable employers and sufficient numbers of students, as well as in recruiting and retaining high-calibre staff. Despite this, they reported that many students make significant progress – often performing better than expected on arrival. Interviewees attributed this to a range of factors including: smaller learning environments; higher teacher-to-student ratios; high-quality teaching (particularly in technical subjects); input from industry experts; longer school days that allow for increased teaching time; effective pastoral support; and the opportunity to follow unique curriculum pathways that are better suited to students’ needs and interests.