New building opened in £9.5m college revamp

Bill Smith of the Bluebird Project inspects a van bonnet with Northumberland College student Arron Broadhead.
Bill Smith of the Bluebird Project inspects a van bonnet with Northumberland College student Arron Broadhead.

A top engineer has officially opened a county college’s new engineering building as part of a £9.5m upgrade.

Bill Smith, lead engineer of the Tyneside-based Bluebird Project, officially opened the Brunel Building at Northumberland College.

Bill, who is well known for his dedication in restoring the original Donald Campbell Bluebird craft, unveiled the new engineering block which features an industry-standard motor vehicle workshop and electrical workshops with operational installation bays.

The launch of the new facility marks the recent £9.5m investment across the college’s Ashington, Kirkley Hall, Berwick and Hexham campuses.

The Bluebird, which is a jet-powered hydroplane, crashed in 1967, killing then world record holder Donald Campbell who was trying to beat the world water speed record at above 300mph on Coniston Water in Cumbria.

Bill and a team of volunteers recovered the wreckage 15 years ago and have been working to restore it ever since.

The college donated a milling machine last year to the Bluebird Project, which will allow students access to the rebuild, allowing them the opportunity to gain hands-on skills in their subject.

Bill said: “I’m honoured to have been invited to open the building which will train the next generation of engineers, who will build tomorrow’s oil rigs, satellites and bridges.

“The young people that I have met are so enthusiastic and professional in learning their trade – it’s such an important investment into their future.”

Marcus Clinton, principal at Northumberland College, added: “We would like to thank everyone for coming along to our launch.

“It has been a perfect opportunity for employers to see the state-of-the-art facilities we have built ensuring our students will train on the very best equipment in a real industry environment.

“The investment paves the way for our students to be highly employable across all vocational disciplines that we offer at the college.”