College bosses are celebrating after securing funding for a new centre that will create more jobs and training opportunities.
Northumberland College has secured £2.5m from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership to build a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Centre at its Ashington campus.
Plans for the new specialist skills centre are being drawn up for approval by Northumberland County Council with a view to it being open in time for the 2016-17 academic year.
The centre will create around 20 jobs and provide facilities for more than 300 extra learners – including apprentices and higher apprentices – with a mix of realistic, industry standard workspaces and classrooms, which will be available to 200 local school pupils every year.
Chairman of governors, Jacqui Henderson, CBE, said the college would be working closely with employers, training providers and schools to ensure the facility and the qualifications it delivers meets the needs of industry.
“It is well documented that there is a skills gap in some of the region’s most important economic sectors,” she said.
“Unless we improve the provision for STEM subjects and the quality of teaching to inspire the next generation of scientists, technicians and engineers, the skills gap will widen further and put in jeopardy the UK’s reputation as world class in advanced manufacturing and engineering.
“I believe the STEM centre is critical not only to Northumberland but to the wider economy.
“The Royal Academy of Engineering reports the need for 160,000 engineers, scientists and technicians by 2020.
“As the only further education college serving Northumberland, we understand our obligations and priority to ensure we provide the skills our industries demand for economic survival and growth.”
College principal Marcus Clinton said the STEM centre would focus on engineering, advanced manufacturing, renewables, network engineering, health science and pharmaceutical industries as one of a number of projects being developed by the college to drive enterprise in the county.
He said: “Our key drivers for the STEM project are to create modern flexible learning space and high quality realistic work environments that will enable us to provide for emerging skills needs in industries vital to the economic well-being of the region.”
“In so doing, we will create a resource which supplies the workers of the future to allow our industries to continue to grow and develop.
“The centre will also provide much needed professional development, enabling local employers to quickly and flexibly upskill existing workers to meet emerging demands.”
Brandon Lewis, minister for housing in the Department for Communities and Local Government, visited the Ashington campus to announce the funding earlier this month.
He said: “What struck me was the enthusiasm of the students who want to learn new skills and find jobs that will help the local economy.
“I see that enthusiasm across the north east and it is a region keen to play its part in powering an economic recovery for all.”