South Staffordshire College brought together the UK’s agriculture industry in June to celebrate the launch of its AgriSTEM Academy, which aims to address the fundamental economic and food security issues facing our farming community. The facility will provide market-leading and innovative training opportunities for the agri-tech and advanced manufacturing and engineering (AME) industries.
Agriculture business leaders, skills training organisations, and local and national politicians attended the site to preview the pioneering technology and industry-standard facilities. Guests had the opportunity to test their precision farming skills at hay baling on the tractor simulator and were treated to a performance from the dancing robots in the Advanced Mechatronics Lab.
The £5.4m academy is situated at South Staffordshire College’s 180-hectare Rodbaston campus, and will offer a new range of diplomas, apprenticeships and traineeships in subjects such as land-based engineering, agricultural engineering, and motorsport. Its first intake of students will start in September 2017.
Former Transport Minister Rt Hon Sir Patrick McLoughlin, who previously studied at South Staffordshire College, officially opened the Academy. He said: “This fantastic building and investment will ensure that Rodbaston will have a place at the centre of agricultural education in the UK”.
Guests had the opportunity to learn more about how, as an advanced learning facility, AgriSTEM will prepare students for a rapidly transforming agriculture industry. The offering to students was discussed in the context of many of the major issues confronting agriculture in post-Brexit Britain, such as the potential termination of EU subsidies from 2019, and the need for increased efficiency in food production. South Staffordshire College hopes that the Academy will enable the next generation of agriculture workers to navigate through these issues, and equip them with the necessary skills for a successful future.
The AgriSTEM Academy was funded by the Government’s Local Growth Fund through Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP board member Jonathan Dale, who leads on business growth and innovation, said: “The agricultural technology sector will play a key role in growing the economy of Staffordshire and we are very pleased to have contributed £3.8 million to this showpiece centre which will develop the skills our young people need for the future. The AgriSTEM Academy boasts extremely impressive facilities and is a great addition to South Staffordshire College.
“The LEP will be continuing to invest in advanced manufacturing and engineering skills hubs in FE colleges throughout our area as part of our strategy to create a highly skilled workforce and bring more and better jobs to Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire.”
In addition to its use as a centre of learning, South Staffordshire College also intends to host a number of events at AgriSTEM over the coming months, tackling the problems facing agriculture, and discussing the solutions needed. The Academy’s location in the centre of the UK makes it a convenient and accessible venue for industry leaders to come together.
Graham Morley, Chief Executive Principal of South Staffordshire College, said: “The unique combination of facilities and expertise on offer at AgriSTEM will place us right at the forefront of the national skills agenda. We will play a vital role in addressing the nation’s food security challenges, tackling the economic cliff-edge facing agriculture, and enabling students to successfully pursue a career in the agri-tech or AME industries. Agriculture in particular faces a very different future from its traditional roots, and we have clear objectives in terms of how the Academy will prepare learners for that. We want to invite the wider industry to come and witness for themselves how we can meet those objectives.”
“Looking forward, we want the AgriSTEM Academy to not only be a centre of excellence for skills, but also to be at the centre of the national conversation on the issues facing UK agriculture today. The Academy provides a logical and natural home for that debate, and we look forward to welcoming industry professionals back to participate in those conversations.”
Graham Morley (left) and Jonathan Dale are pictured at AgriSTEM