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Oldham College scoops £2.9million funding, securing future of economy boosting ‘Innovation Hub’

By Dominic Claeys-Jackson

Oldham College students are set to benefit from almost £2.9million of government funding, finally securing the development of a new economy-boosting Innovation Hub.

Announced by the Skills Funding Agency yesterday, the grant has rubber-stamped the £9million complex, which will be dedicated to teaching science, engineering and digital technology.

The new 4,389m² building will replace the current off-site teaching accommodation, and will provide a range of flexible workshop, general and specialist teaching provisions.

Alun Francis, Principal of Oldham College, was delighted with the grant, claiming that the Innovation Hub will have a key effect on Manchester’s economy.

“By securing this funding we are taking another major step towards the realisation of the vision we have for Oldham College and for the town,” he said.

“We have great ambitions for the Innovation Hub, which will focus on new technologies, digital and advanced manufacturing. 

“The project builds on the work we are already doing to make sure that our specialisms are in line with the sectors of the Greater Manchester economy which will grow.”

New full-time and part-time courses for all ages will be enabled with the new Innovation Hub, helping to create pathways to work via apprenticeships.

With construction beginning next summer, the Innovation Hub is the second of two new campus-transforming buildings; the first, the Learning Hub, begins construction in January.

Both are part of a wider programme to renew and improve the college campus, and Oldham College themselves are investing a further £6.9million into the developments.

Oldham College said that both projects – costing a combined £16million – will reflect the needs and demands of a 21st century learning establishment.

Mr Francis added: “It is a further development of the work we are already doing with local employers around green technology, low carbon skills, and digital.

“It is not only a fantastic and aspirational project for Oldham College, but the town and region, which will see Oldham innovatively delivering key skills for the future.

Christian Spence, Research Manager at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the investment.

He said: “With the need for innovation at the heart of the growth strategy for Greater Manchester, it is excellent news that Oldham College has received this significant investment for its own future and that of the young people of Oldham and beyond.

“The Chamber’s members consistently tell us that one of the greatest single gaps in the skills environment which will allow them to grow is around the STEM (science, technology, engineering and manufacturing) subjects, and it is these areas that will drive the growth of our economy.

“We hope that other areas of Greater Manchester follow in the footsteps of this project so that the whole region contributes to investing in the skills of the local workforce.”

The grant is part of central government’s plans to pump £110million of investment – via the Skills Funding Agency – into more than fifty colleges nationwide.

In May, all colleges were invited to apply for up to £3million for individual projects for facilities ready to use by September 2014.

Colleges will invest a further £302million into such projects, meaning £412million will be spent on developments ranging from state-of-the-art civil engineering academies to classroom transformations.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “These projects will transform the learning environment for thousands of students across the country, providing them with state-of-the-art facilities and modern resources that will help them fulfil their potential.

“Addressing gaps in skills is an important part of our industrial strategy.

“This initiative is another example of how Government is working in long-term partnership with industry to give them more confidence to invest, hire and grow.”

Kim Thorneywork, Chief Executive of the Skills Funding Agency, added that demand for the grants had been very high.

She said: “This additional funding demonstrates the Government’s continued commitment to the further education estate allowing students to grow and flourish in an exciting, inspirational, modern learning environment in the heart of the local community.”

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