“THE thing that drew me to this position,” said Jon Oliver, “was that although I’m not an engineer myself UTCs offer something in addition to the traditional education provision.
“I just thought UTCs were such an excellent opportunity to address the skills gap -that really appealed to me.
“It’s a great opportunity to shape their careers. The UTC really helps with that.
“We’re providing opportunities for young people to be inspired.”
UTC Swindon opened in September of 2014 and has 160 students, or 40 percent of capacity. Jon hopes the total will climb to 200 by the time the next educational year begins in September.
Students range in age from 14 to19, and start in Year 10 or Year 12. 
The UTC is part of Activate Learning Education Trust, an umbrella organisation which includes UTCs in other locations such as Oxford and Reading.
Thursday’s open evening, which will include tours for prospective students and parents, and opportunities to meet and question staff and students about engineering, digital technologies and UTC life in general, is part of an ongoing programme.
Jon said: “We have a series of events during the year to recruit Year 10 and Year 12 students.
“The idea is to raise awareness of what we have to offer in terms of our technical and vocational learning in addition to the more standard courses followed as part of the core curriculum.
“It’s making sure that students thinking of joining us have a good understanding of what the UTC is about.
“The most important thing for us is that our students are prepared for further progress into study or employment.”
When the UTC opened, its pioneering students were only in Years 10 and 12, the years when students are able to migrate from their existing schools. 
“There are 49 UTCs in England,” said Jon. “Like most, it’s a case of building up your cohort. For us, one of the big things is that a lot of students in schools - or their parents - are not much aware of what we are, or that there is another option.
“That’s why the open events are very important.”
Jon is clear on what sets UTCs apart from more traditional schools.
“It’s an opportunity to experience a more technical approach to education. While we’re still a school, we have an ethos more in line with business. That is because we have a more explicit progression into employment, whether it’s apprenticeships, higher education or directly into employment.
“UTCs nationally have a really good track record of positive progression of young people into further training and employment.”
In Swindon’s case, Jon is proud to report, 100 percent of students leaving at the age of 18 progress into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)-related training and work.
Last year’s A-Level pass rate also ran at 100 percent, and destinations for students ranged from university to companies such as BMW, Honda, Rolls-Royce, Mercedes Benz and Patheon.
The work schedule at UTC Swindon is more akin to that of a workplace than a school, and according to Jon constant effort is made to liaise with local companies.
BMW, for example, sends apprentices to meet with UTC students, and the students can relate to the apprentices because they are not much older - and are particularly inspired when the apprentice engineers arrive in brand new Minis.
Students are taught skills intended to serve them well throughout their working lives, including presenting, time management, teamwork, CV preparation and interview techniques, and encouraged to develop positive personality traits such as patience, perseverance and determination.
They also learn that demand for engineers and digital technology professionals is constant.
Jon is originally from Sussex. He didn’t come from a family of teachers but is a member of one; in addition to his wife being a retired school head, a daughter joined the profession.
Sport was his original passion, and he gained a degree in sports science before moving into coaching and then teaching.
“I really enjoyed the opportunity to shape young people’s lives through sport, and as I progressed in my career I found leadership an important aspect of my own development.”
Jon honed his leadership skills not just in the workplace but during 15 years as an Army reservist.
His career evetually brought him to Swindon, and in 2014 he was deputy principal of the UTC when it opened.
He is acutely conscious of Swindon’s long and proud engineering heritage.
“We see people coming to us who have relations still in engineering, or links to the Railway Works.
“That heritage is really important, and our location in the Railway Village allows us to be a part of that.”
Jon’s message to young people wondering whether to come to Thursday’s open event?
“Have a look, talk to us and see what we have to offer. If you have a career in mind in engineering or digital technologies, we have an impressive record of progress into those careers.
“It’s important that anybody considering that has every piece of information they need, and that is why these open events are so important.” 
Full details of Thursday’s event and others can be found at www.utcswindon.co.uk