Sunday 14 July 2024
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£8.6m education centre in Nottinghamshire gets the go ahead

A council has given the go-ahead for £4.3m to be allocated from its £12.3m Towns Fund pot to a major education, skills and business development project in the district.

The Future Tech Skills and Knowledge Exchange will create new teaching and innovation space at the Chesterfield Road Campus of West Nottinghamshire College in Mansfield which aims to address high-value employment opportunities in priority sectors.

This state-of-the-art education facility will deliver qualifications at level 3 and above, with a strong focus on innovation and STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects, offering local people the opportunity to meet future labour market needs and ultimately helping to create well-paid jobs in Mansfield and the wider district.

Executive Mayor Andy Abrahams said: “This partnership with the college will see one of the biggest expansions in educational and skills provision in the district for decades.

“It will aim to address a consistent labour shortage issue that local employers have in this area – finding workers with the right level and type of technical skills required in the 21st Century.

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“Additionally, it will encourage new employers to start up or come to Mansfield, knowing that high-level, industry-relevant skills are being developed right here.

“This forms a key part of the council Aspiration’s priorities for the district which are centred on our ambition for Mansfield to be a place where people can achieve and succeed.

“We want students to gain the kind of qualifications in Mansfield that enable them to gain good, well paid jobs here, and not feel that they have to leave the area in order to do well in life.

“I’d also stress that this project is seeking the active involvement of local businesses. The world of business is constantly changing and evolving.

“The new facility will facilitate collaboration between high-achieving students, aspirational local businesses and the expertise within our further and higher education partners.”

Funding from the council was given the green light on 9 January 2023, followed by the Mansfield Place Board’s endorsement at its meeting on the 24 January.

Andrew Cropley, Principal and Chief Executive of West Nottinghamshire College and Chair of the Place Board, said: “I am delighted we’ve reached this important milestone of securing the remaining funding needed to progress with this exciting scheme.

“The Future Tech Skills and Knowledge Exchange will be hugely important in creating a highly-skilled workforce in priority sectors by increasing the number of people qualified at level 3 and above in STEM-related subjects.

“It will provide a space where education and business can work together on projects that maximise the benefits of the emerging technologies that will be so critical to Mansfield’s economic prosperity.

“Crucially, it will enable students to gain the skills and knowledge to secure well-paid employment while helping businesses to grow their talent pool and adopt the new technology that will make them more competitive and profitable.

“We have engaged positively with the planning authority and have finalised the design for the building. I am really looking forward to the project taking shape and moving a step closer to this bold ambition becoming reality.”

The Future Tech Skills and Knowledge Exchange will offer opportunities for businesses to benefit from the technological expertise of both the college and Nottingham Trent University (NTU), and their networks of industrial partnerships.

It will also provide a space where students of the college and NTU will work collaboratively with businesses on projects to support greater use of evolving technology.

The centre will be a focal delivery point for T-Levels – new qualifications developed in collaboration with employers – being introduced by the college in September 2024, and will incorporate facilities to support construction, engineering and digital technologies.

It will also serve as a knowledge-exchange between the college and NTU and employers – giving businesses a greater understanding of future trends and the opportunities technology will bring, plus support with product and process innovation.

The centre will allow students to gain significant work experience with local businesses on technology-driven projects, giving them a valuable insight into how businesses work and support their progression to higher education or employment.

Meanwhile, businesses will gain access to support and a future workforce, helping them improve their competitiveness and efficiency through the use of new technology.

In addition to collaboration between students from the college and NTU on employer-based projects, the centre will promote the adoption of new technologies through a number of business engagement events.

Funding for the £8.86m facility is being met by the following contributions: £4.3m from Mansfield’s Towns Fund allocation, £3.827m from the Education and Skills Funding Agency as part of the second phase of its Further Education Capital Transformation Fund, and £734,000 from the college and NTU.

It is hoped on-site works will commence in July 2023, ready for a planned opening date of September 2024.

The Future Tech Skills and Knowledge Exchange centre is the final scheme to be given the green light of the six projects included in the council’s £12.3m Towns Fund allocation.

The others, which have already been approved by Mansfield Place Board, are:

– Warsop Health Hub. This £8.2m project (with £3m from the Towns Fund) will see a 15m x 8m swimming pool, a changing village, fitness suite, a multi-purpose hall and a new and improved multi-use games area created in the community and is now at the planning application stage.

– Berry Hill Park – a £3.27m plan (of which £2.94m is from the Towns Fund) to redevelop the park and make it more accessible, including a new visitor centre, café, new adventure play area and event performance space along with improvements to paths. Designers have now been appointed.

– Mansfield Woodhouse Station Gateway scheme. This is a £506,000 project to build 290 sqm of commercial floor space in three business units on a brownfield site adjacent to the railway station. Works are expected to begin in spring 2023.

– Destination Mansfield, a £715,000 project (of which £500,000 is from the Towns Fund) to redefine and rebrand the district as a place of choice in which to live, work and visit. The new strategy will see improved events and cultural activities over three years including recreational trails and festivals to celebrate the history and heritage of the town. The extra £215,000 needed will come from Mansfield District Council. Work has commenced on procuring a Place strategy.

– Smart Mansfield, a £1m scheme to install a Long Range Wide Area Network, enabling Mansfield to become a pioneering community on the “Internet of Things” supporting efficiencies and new service delivery for residents and businesses across a range of partners. One of the early projects being developed is a Smart Parking solution, offering users better access to parking facilities, and improved ticketing that is easy to use, making best use of modern technology.  It will be key in increasing access to the town for work, shopping, leisure and tourism. Procurement has begun for this project.

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