I’m delighted to be writing my first column for the MK Citizen on a topic that I believe can be transformative for the whole of Milton Keynes and help us on the road to becoming the Silicon Valley of Europe.
Skills. Skills. Skills. That’s what we need to focus on as Milton Keynes and the whole of the UK bounces back from the pandemic. We’ve spoken so much about building back better and here in MK we have a fantastic opportunity to put those words into action with a brand new university in the city centre. That is why over the last few months, in fact since I was elected in December 2019, I have been lobbying the Government hard to provide funding for MK:U, a new university for Milton Keynes to create a high-skilled workforce which can meet the demands of the high-tech businesses we have here. We’ve got space technology businesses, racing teams, delivery robots and so much more. Let’s provide the skills these local businesses need in science, technology, digital, data and engineering. And in doing so we’ll attract even more businesses to the area, and therefore jobs and an increase in footfall for our local shops and High Streets. Far too often we see young people in Milton Keynes leaving to go to other cities and towns for university education, find a job there after graduating and then not returning. We can change that.
You will have heard plenty about the Government Levelling Up the Red Wall areas of Britain and too often that is assumed to only apply to the north, but rather than being a geographical challenge, this is a cultural challenge. There are places right here in MK which will benefit from Levelling Up, and providing the city with a brand new university can help us do just that.
We do, of course, already have some incredible education establishments here in Milton Keynes such as the Open University which provides flexible distance learning to over 100,000 thousand student across the country. And we’ve got the new South Central Institute of Technology which is delivering high quality technical qualifications at Level 4 and 5. That is led by the amazing Milton Keynes College who are doing an wonderful job preparing students for the world of work. But we want to aspire to be even better and deliver that high-skilled workforce right here in Milton Keynes which won’t just transform the lives of students who study there, but businesses and individuals across the city.
The MK:U team, led by Cranfield University, have done a fantastic job putting the project together and I truly believe this will be a success for the whole of Milton Keynes. With the Autumn Budget fast approaching I’m sure Government Ministers will be fed up of hearing me and my fellow Milton Keynes MP Iain Stewart banging the drum for MK:U by now, but they will have received the message loud and clear. MK can thrive as a high-skilled, high-wage economy, and be central to our plans to back better.