A COLLEGE is ready to put its troubled recent history behind it and embark on an exciting new era with a £9m improvement project, its new boss claims.
The Journal revealed last week how Northumberland College has successfully bid for almost £3m from the Government’s Skills Funding Agency towards the ambitious revamp of its teaching and learning facilities.
The college will match the grant with £6m from its own funds to pay for the package of new build and refurbishments at its campuses in Ashington, and Kirkley Hall near Ponteland.
The work, which will be completed by September 2014, will see £6m invested at Ashington on state-of-the-art construction, engineering and vehicle workshops, refurbished brickwork, plastering, carpentry and painting workshops and new ground floor hair salon, restaurant and enterprise units. At Kirkley Hall, £3m will be spent on new arboriculture and tractor workshops and an education block with eight classrooms, an open learning suite and learning resource centre.
News of the investment comes a year after plans to merge Northumberland College, with NCG, the parent company of Newcastle College, collapsed at the 11th hour.
The merger proposal had followed a difficult period for the college, when it suffered funding problems, strike action by staff in protest at job losses, management restructuring and a major review of its business model.
Now new principal and chief executive, Stuart Cutforth, says the £9m capital investment in the estate is the start of better times for the college and the communities it serves.
“This is definitely an exciting time for Northumberland College.
“We are ready to put the disappointments and setbacks from the past few years behind us, and move forward with creating a college for the future.
“This is excellent news for the county and the North East region, particularly when public sector expenditure is under pressure. The college has a crucial role in contributing to economic growth and in preparing young people for meaningful careers, so this news could not have come at a better time for the region.”
College bosses have been working closely with architects and cost consultants to prepare an outline scheme to revamp the teaching and learning environments at the two main campuses.
Now they are pushing forward on procuring a professional team to deliver the project.
Mr Cutforth said: “The building work has been carefully phase planned to minimise disruption to the student experience, and ensure we continue to deliver our responsibilities as the only provider of further education in Northumberland.”
The project is aimed at stimulating growth, particularly in the 16 to 18 age group, providing modern working environments in a number of curriculum areas and enabling new courses to be introduced.
An enterprise and employability hub will be a key feature in the Ashington campus.
This will be available to students and the community to encourage business start-ups and enterprise activity.