A MULTI-million pound project to improve a college in Northumberland is set to go ahead after it secured vital Government funding.
The £9.5m scheme to upgrade the Northumberland College main campus in Ashington – and its agricultural training centre at Kirkley Hall near Ponteland – has been awarded a grant of £2.88m by the Skills Funding Agency.
The college itself will invest around £6.5m in the project, which includes extensive new building, refurbishment and demolition work at the two sites to create modern teaching and learning facilities.
About £6m will be spent at the Ashington campus on developing state-of-the-art construction, engineering and vehicle maintenance workshops, and refurbished workshops for brickwork, plastering, carpentry and painting and decorating courses.
The ground floor of the campus building will be refurbished to create an interactive learning environment, supported by a new hair salon, restaurant and enterprise units. A £3.5m investment at Kirkley Hall will create new arboriculture and tractor workshops and the construction of an education block with eight classrooms, open learning suite and learning resource centre.
Last night a college spokesman said: “This project will greatly enhance the teaching and learning facilities for students, as well as attract growth, particularly in the 16 to 18-year-old age groups. The investment will provide up to date, real working environments in a number of curriculum areas, and the new facilities will also enable new courses to be introduced.”
Today’s announcement of the Skills Funding Agency grant comes a year after a proposed merger between Northumberland College and NCG, the parent company of Newcastle College, collapsed just weeks before it was due to go ahead. The merger plan was aborted when Northumberland governors decided to pull out of the deal.
Earlier, The Journal had revealed concerns at Northumberland College over the way the merger was developing, including plans to sell off Kirkley Hall.
In 2009, plans to completely replace the Ashington campus were abandoned when a funding crisis engulfed the now-axed Learning and Skills Council.
Northumberland College is one of 56 to benefit from the latest grants announced by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills via the Skills Funding Agency.
The funding is the third phase of the Enhanced Renewal Grant, which has contributed £330m across England since May 2010, supporting more than £1bn investment in college buildings.
The investment has targeted colleges that have not received significant funding in the recent past.
Yesterday Skills Minister, Matthew Hancock, said: “This fund will create specialist facilities that will ensure thousands of students get the best possible learning experience and inspire them to raise their aspirations, whilst addressing skills shortages across industries.”