Tech institute at Bletchley Park will bridge digital and cyber skills gap

Apr 24, 2019

A CONSORTIUM led by Milton Keynes College has been
granted £28 million by the Department for Education to build an Institute of
Digital Technology at Bletchley Park.

Up to 1,000 students a year are expected to study at the
Institute, one of 12 around the UK given the green light by the government. It
will focus on technical qualifications, higher apprenticeships and training to
plug the growing gap between demand and supply for key technical and digital
roles, including cyber security. 

The government has earmarked funding totalling £170 million for the 12 Institutes, each one charged with delivering high level technical education with a clear route to high skilled employment.

The IoT at Bletchley Park will operate under the aegis of Milton Keynes College in partnership with local employers KPMG, digital forensics specialist Evidence Talks, VWFS and Cranfield University, Oxford-based education and training group and international businesses Microsoft and McAfee.

Milton Keynes College principal and chief executive Dr
Julie Mills said the government’s decision was a “huge vote of confidence” in
the consortium. She added: “Our focus is now set on delivering an Institute
that will give young people the opportunity to become the digital leaders of
the future. The Institute will provide them with a clear path to a great career
and employers with the skilled workforce they need.”

Milton Keynes is ranked the eighth most active city in
the UK for technical innovation. The IoT will train the people needed not only
in the region but also all over the country. Students aged 18 and over will study at the Institute
and online.

Elizabeth Sheldon, co-founder and chairman of Milton
Keynes-based digital forensics expert Evidence Talks, said: “This is fantastic
news. The requirement in this region for digital skills remains high and will
continue to grow as the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge Arc is formed. The IoT
at Bletchley Park will deliver students to fulfil the requirement of many
businesses in the sector who need these digital skills from future employees.” 

The consortium’s bid for government funding was backed by Milton
Keynes MPs Iain Stewart and Mark Lancaster. In a joint statement, they said: “Milton Keynes has long been one of the best places in the country
for digital innovation and this news ensures the city continues to grow and
offers young people excellent choices for their education that will lead to
high skilled, more rewarding jobs.

“We are looking forward to continuing to work with MK College as
they help more young people grow with amazing opportunities to get the digital
skills they need for a successful career in a time when new technologies are
constantly transforming the world of work.”

Global giant Microsoft is already working with Cranfield University
and Milton Keynes College to develop a new generation of digital experts.

Derrick McCourt, general manager of Microsoft’s
customer success unit, said: “The new Institute of Technology will help to provide a much-needed pathway for students to develop
their digital skills and practical expertise, which are vital in bridging the
shortage in digital skills across the nation. This announcement is a hugely
positive step forward in ensuring that students and employers are armed with
the digital skills they want and need – both now and in the future.”

Ben McDonald, managing partner at business advice firm
KPMG’s Milton Keynes office and sponsor of the firm’s support for the IoT,
said: “Both our own firm and the clients we advise are evolving to recognise
the importance of digital skills and the IoT will be a great source of digital
talent. The IoT will make a huge difference to the area and its attractiveness
as a business destination.” 

VWFS marketing director Dan James added: “Given the importance of attracting
innovative individuals to our organisation alongside the increasing skills
shortage in the fintech sector, we are delighted that the IoT will now be able
to nurture these skills in Milton Keynes.”  

IT security giant McAfee
has had a long association with Bletchley Park. Its vice president of UK
research and development Paul Gartside said: “Creating an IoT at such an amazing and historic site is very
close to our heart. McAfee is committed to working with MK College focusing on
STEM, coding and teaching people how to stay safe on line.”

The IoT will
be based in Block D, part of the original Bletchley Park wartime site where the
breaking, deciphering and analysing German Enigma coded messages took place
during the Second World War. The building housed almost 9,000 codebreakers by
the end of the war, producing intelligence vital in ensuring Allied victory.

Bletchley Park Trust chief executive Iain Standen said:
“Bletchley Park is a place where innovative digital technology was
pioneered and this legacy will undoubtedly inspire the future generations who
learn here.”

Alex Warner, Activate Learning’s director of delivery
for technology Alex Warner added: “I think it is incredibly fitting the
historic setting of Bletchley Park will now play host to the future Alan
Turings of the digital technology age.”

The institutes
will provide
a natural progression for young people taking T Levels or A Levels (Level 3),
enabling them to take the next step to higher level technical education and training. The government is
introducing new T Levels – two-year courses developed
in collaboration with employers that combine classroom learning and
‘on-the-job’ experience via an industry placement – from next year and more
high-quality apprenticeships. Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: “These
new Institutes of Technology will be the pinnacle of technical training – new
collaborations between universities, colleges and business to make sure young
people have the skills they need to build a well-paid rewarding, career, while
the economy gains the skilled workers it needs to be more productive.

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