Staff and students from Stafford College have celebrated with special guests at the official opening ceremony for the College’s brand new Science and Technology Centre.
The new centre was opened by Lord Stafford, accompanied by Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership chairman David Frost CBE, with guests also including Stafford MP Jeremy Lefroy, Councillor Phillip White, cabinet support member for learning and employability at Staffordshire County Council, and representatives from local universities and strategic employer partners.
A surprise guest was Pepper, the college’s brand new, innovative humanoid robot. Pepper is a learning tool which gives students the opportunity to develop programming skills which in turn can make the robot recognise faces, remember names and sense moods and emotions.
The renovation of the College’s Broadeye building began early in 2017, following a successful bid to the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership. The LEP provided £2m of funding, with NSCG contributing a further £1.5m to allow the commencement of an ambitious £3.5m programme of works to transform the building in to a dedicated Science and Technology Centre, designed to inspire the next generation of scientists, innovators and creative thinkers.
Spanning four floors, the Science and Technology Centre boasts high-tech features including; impressive biology, chemistry, physics and engineering laboratories, IT suites and a LEGO® Education Innovation Studio which is utilised both by students of Stafford College and pupils from partner primary and secondary schools. In addition, the facility houses a number of general seminar rooms, a learning zone, a boardroom and meeting facilities. The reception area is home to an Apprenticeship Hub and Employer Vacancy Board, which is open to the general public as well as the College students.
Commenting on the event, LEP chairman David Frost CBE said: “We are delighted to support this impressive new centre. These showpiece facilities will equip our young people with the science and technology skills that are vital for a growing economy. Encouraging young people to develop their skills to the full and creating more and better jobs are both key to ensuring that Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire has a thriving future as a great place to live, work and invest.
“The transformation of this building has been astonishing and it is exactly the sort of facility we need to educate our young people and encourage businesses to invest in this area.
“Our aspiration is to bring more jobs, better jobs and higher-paid jobs to this area and this centre in our county town will equip young people for the jobs of the future. We expect great things from Stafford College in coming years.”
Karen Dobson, principal and chief executive of Newcastle and Stafford Colleges Group said: “The official opening our Science and Technology centre marks the start of an exciting new chapter for Stafford College. Our state-of-the-art building, coupled with new curriculum and a strong, stable management team means that we are well positioned for future growth and development.
“Our new Science and Technology Centre is one of the best facilities of its type in the region and it demonstrates our commitment to giving students the best learning experience possible. We recognise the need to develop a well trained workforce in the areas of science, technology, engineering and maths and the new centre will serve to enhance our efforts to recruit students into STEM-disciplines and better prepare them with the latest technology and equipment to enter these fields when they leave the college.”
Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire LEP will soon be inviting organisations across the area to submit an application for grants from a new £1.76m Skills Equipment Fund. The LEP funding will need to be matched by a contribution of the same value from the applicants. Local employers and training providers can submit bids to the Skills Equipment Fund to buy state of the art equipment and fund minor adaptations to equip buildings to deliver high quality and high level training programmes to help grow Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire’s priority economic sectors.
The investment will enable local employers and training institutions to respond to local training needs with the right equipment to train and reskill people in the LEP priority sectors. The key aims are:
- Expanding a work-based talent pool of skills across the priority sectors by facilitating increased demand for apprenticeships and traineeship opportunities following the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy.
- Improving the skills of the existing workforce, particularly at levels 3 and 4.
- Upskilling and retraining the unemployed and NEET young people to meet current opportunities in the priority sectors.
- Developing a network of local providers and employers able to respond to employer training needs through the use of specialist industry standard equipment.