Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry said the opening of the college at the Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone was an important moment not only for the area but for the country.
He was in the resort for the official opening of Blackpool and The Fylde College’s £10.7m Lancashire Energy HQ, the flagship development of the Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone.
Designed in close co-operation with industry, the building houses a wide range of state-of the art equipment and offers skills training for the energy sector and related industries for young people.
Mr Berry said: “Lancashire’s economy drove the first industrial revolution and with the Northern Powerhouse will play a leading role in the fourth.
“This college will support the vocational skills of people living here in Lancashire, making sure they are fit for the future and help build an economy to take on the world.If you look at the latest figures here in the north we massively punch above our weight in terms of vocational skills and training. We provide about half of the country’s apprenticeships despite having only a third of the population.
“This is a £10m investment, £6.2m of which was provided by the Government. If you are a young person in Lancashire there are world beating opportunities now on your doorstep.
“It is appropriate that in this National Apprenticeships week we celebrate the role which this facility will play in developing skills of the future.
“This fantastic new facility is of national significance in our desire to grow not only the Lancashire economy, the Northern Powerhouse economy but also the national economy.
“There has never been a better time to get involved in the energy industry.
“We have the resource here to deliver fantastic vocational skills and there is a very bright future ahead in the energy industry. With hundreds of students, many of them on apprenticeships with local businesses passing through the Energy HQ’s doors each year, it is clear that it is the Northern Powerhouse that is delivering the next generation of energy engineers and driving forward innovative low carbon technology.”
Three of those young engineers of the future, all working for nuclear power firm Westinghouse at the Springfields site in Salwick, were on hand to talk about their experience after starting studies at the college in September last year when its doors first opened.
Robert Grant, a former Carr Hill pupil said he was very impressed with the facilities at the new building. He said: “Everything is of an extremely high quality.“
William Coles and Connor Upton who had previously studied engineering at Runshaw College were also pleased to be at the Energy HQ. Connor said: “We are here to study mostly the theoretical side but the equipment is impressive.”
The Energy HQ offers hands on training and theoretical studies up to and including degree level in such areas as offshore wind, oil and gas, nuclear engineering, safety critical systems instrumentation training, metal technologies and pneumatics.
It has a computerised simulator room which can be configured for a variety of sectors from offshore rigs to nuclear.
Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said: “The college facilities are impressive and it is great to have it here in Blackpool. It is important to train our young people for the skills needed today but also for the general skills they and industry will need in the future.”
Kenny Gilmour, operations director at Thornton polymers specialist Victrex said crucially the college was working closely with industry to deliver the skills the country needed.
He said: “That we have here collaboration with industry to design bespoke skills training, which is academically sound makes it so exciting.
“This is a facility of national significance, provided by a community college but providing skills that will be relevant to the whole country.”