College unveils £10m jobs factory

An artist's impression of the Advanced Technology Centre set to transform Blackpool and The Fylde College's Bispham campus, at a cost of �10.3m.
An artist's impression of the Advanced Technology Centre set to transform Blackpool and The Fylde College's Bispham campus, at a cost of �10.3m.
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This is the exclusive first look at how a Blackpool college is set to undergo a £10.3m transformation.

Blackpool and The Fylde College has announced it has secured the funding to develop an Advanced Technology Centre on its Bispham campus, which will provide a major boost for its plans to create a centre of excellence in energy, engineering and manufacturing.

Building work is set to begin on the project in late June, providing work for around 120 construction and manufacturing workers on the site.

And when it is completed and opened in September 2015, the centre – described as “inspirational” by college bosses – will see more than 6,000 pupils and students go through its doors each year, learning about subjects from aviation and motoring to nuclear technologies.

College capital project director John Pye said: “It will be a state-of-the-art facility supporting excellence in teaching and learning.

“It will be inspirational.

“People will see it’s a positive investment in the area.”

Industry bosses have praised the college’s work to plug the gap of a skills shortage in the engineering and manufacturing industries on the Fylde coast.

Hugh Evans, deputy chief executive for the North West Chamber of Commerce, said: “The college taking the initiative spending this money and working with the business community is really good news for the area.

“One of the major problems facing Blackpool is it has been too heavily dependant on a low skill, low wage economy – we need to change all of that.

“High technology businesses don’t locate here if they can’t find the employees.”

Bev Robinson, Blackpool and The Fylde College principal and chief executive, said: “Our priority, as a leading provider of education and training, is to ensure our students 
develop the skills that industries need for the region’s economic prosperity.”

Courses to be delivered from the centre are yet to be confirmed but are set to include advanced engineering and manufacturing including aviation, automotive and electronics, and nuclear, renewables and environmental technologies.

Courses in offshore and onshore wind farm maintenance and leadership/management are also mooted.

Bosses say they hope the new centre will extend their work with big businesses, such as BAE Systems and Ford Motors, as well as attracting others to strike up partnerships with the college.

The funding comes, in part, from the Skills Funding Agency under its College Capital Investment Fund, divided up as around £6m for the building and £4m for facilities and equipment.

In total, £3.4 million comes from the SFA.

A further £6.9m comes from the college’s funds which includes some funding from what was set aside as part of a 10-year property strategy which included Bispham and the Fleetwood campus being completely transformed with revamped halls of residence.

The new project also includes plans for the college’s Construction Skills Centre to be developed further to support the construction and renewable technology industries.

And it comes as the college was last year rated “outstanding” by the Government’s education watchdog Ofsted.

Mrs Robinson added: “The centre will provide state-of-the-art learning environments that will become the centre of excellence for advanced engineering, technology and energy solutions on the Fylde coast and across Lancashire.”

Facilities and equipment available to students in the centre will include traditional motor vehicle technology, a Formula Four car, engine test facilities, robotics and 3D modelling.

The building will be erected on the north side of the Ashfield Road campus, set to replace some of the now unfit-for-purpose facilities.

Mr Pye said the centre could also be a beacon to attract people to make the Fylde coast a centre for energy, engineering and manufacturing education.

He said: “It’s part of attracting people to the area to study.”

The Chamber of Commerce, last year, conducted a skill survey, finding Fylde coast businesses regularly brought in employees from out of the area due to a lack of skilled workers from the Fylde coast.

Mr Evans added: “Any initiative of this kind is certainly welcomed and we know employers will welcome it.”

He hopes businesses will help the college to develop courses to inspire students and work with organisations to make the Fylde a key place for industry in the country.

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