Bletchley Park

Home of Second World War codebreakers at Bletchley Park to be turned into Institute of Technology by consortium including Microsoft

A consortium that includes Microsoft has been awarded Government funding to transform part of Bletchley Park into an Institute of Technology that will teach digital skills.

The eight organisations have been granted £28 million to refurbish Block D at the historic site, which was home to Britain’s codebreakers in the Second World War, including Alan Turing, and the famous Enigma machine.

Around 1,000 students aged 18 and over are expected to attend the Institute every year for technical qualifications, higher apprenticeships and training to help tackle the UK digital skills gap in roles such as cybersecurity.

It is estimated that more than 500,000 highly skilled workers are needed to fill digital roles by 2022. That figure is three times the number of computer science graduates that the UK has produced over the past 10 years.

Derrick McCourt, General Manager of the Customer Success Unit at Microsoft UK, said: “In a world being transformed by technology, many of the jobs and opportunities of tomorrow will require skills and expertise rooted in technical aptitude. This new Institute of Technology at Bletchley Park will offer a much-needed pathway for young people to develop digital skills and practical expertise so vital to building a fulfilling career as well as addressing the digital skills gap across the UK.”

Sir John Dermot Turing, Alan Turing's nephew, views the plans for the Institute of Technology at Bletchley Park

Sir John Dermot Turing (left), Alan Turing’s nephew, views the plans for the Institute of Technology at Bletchley Park

The Government invited consortiums of universities, further education colleges and companies to bid for £170 million of funding to create a network of 12 technology institutes across the country, in a move politicians called the “biggest shake up to technical education in a generation.”

Microsoft’s group is led by Milton Keynes College and also includes KPMG, McAfee, Evidence Talks, VWFS, Activate Learning and Cranfield University, who will also help the institute deliver manufacturing and engineering skills. It is supported by the Bletchley Park Trust.

The consortium will use its funding to create a state-of the-art facility that will build on and complement further and higher education institutions in the Buckinghamshire area. It will contain cutting-edge equipment and have access to the latest research from university partners to anticipate the skills that employers will require in the future. Local employers and partners will contribute additional investment, teaching staff and equipment.

Announcing the plans of the 12 institutes that have received funding, Prime Minister Theresa May said: “I firmly believe that education is key to opening up opportunity for everyone – but to give our young people the skills they need to succeed, we need an education and training system which is more flexible and diverse than it is currently.

Derrick McCourt (right) from Microsoft joins other members of the consortium and Sir John Dermot Turing outside D Block at Bletchley Park

Derrick McCourt (right) from Microsoft joins other members of the consortium and Sir John Dermot Turing outside Block D at Bletchley Park

“New technologies are transforming the world of work, and to harness the opportunities on offer we must equip our future workforce with the technical skills they need to thrive, and that the economy needs to grow.

“These new Institutes will help end outdated perceptions that going to university is the only desirable route and build a system which harnesses the talents of our young people.”

Microsoft, which runs a digital skills initiative and hosts events to encourage girls to consider a career in technology, said the Bletchley Park plan would help young people embark on successful careers.

“Microsoft’s collaborations with Milton Keynes College and Cranfield University are helping to develop the next generation workforce,” McCourt added. “This announcement is a hugely positive step forward in ensuring that students and employers are armed with invaluable skills – both now and in the future.”