TWO training centres that will be key to the future prosperity of the Tees Valley are to be developed at a North-East college thanks to Government investment.
Darlington College has secured almost £600,000 from the Strategic Development Fund, which will be used to create a business hub for professional qualifications and a hi-tech training centre for the advanced manufacturing and automation/robotics sector.
Both areas will be pivotal in the upskilling of the workforce for employers including the new Darlington Economic Campus, which is home to the Government’s six powerhouse departments, and the expected boom in automation.
Curriculum manager for professional qualifications Sam Eason said: “This is perfect timing for the college when the country is struggling to find skilled labour and the Government is moving six main departments to Darlington, including the Treasury.
“We will be offering professional qualification right across the chartered institutes, from level 2 to level 7 masters, in accountancy, procurement, management, project management and HR. It will be industry specific and the centres will transform how we work with companies and public sector organisations.”
She said adults would be provided with a professional environment away from younger FE students, while senior business figures would benefit from being able to discuss their training requirements in a professional business centre. Transforming the existing Gateway area of college with flexible walls would provide study areas and meeting rooms and also a conference venue for business-to-business events.
“This will make the college a very attractive proposition to local employers from the world of business and government to upskill their existing workforce and new recruits,” she added. “Whatever they need we will have the facilities to provide it.”
Curriculum manager for engineering, design, automotive and the arts Alan Jones was equally excited about the prospect of transforming the engineering department to meet the new needs of industry.
“Automation has been identified as a huge growth area – robotics are becoming the norm – as costs come down putting machines within reach of small and medium sized enterprises,” he said. “By next September we will have a fully operational robotics lab, complete with a production line, where students can learn how to programme, adapt, maintain and repair the latest robots which are being employed on the most repetitive production tasks.
“Students can still learn the basic skills of engineering, such as hand-tool skills, but also futureproof their careers by developing a host of digital and technical skills including coding, science and materials.”
Darlington College has been at the cutting edge of professional qualifications and engineering for years offering HNCs, HNDs and apprenticeships on full- and part-time programmes. Over the past four years it has also successfully piloted the placement element of the new T-Levels. The college is due to deliver T-Levels in engineering and childcare from September 2022.
The two-year T-Level, which is the equivalent of three A Levels, sees students study in college alongside a 45-day work placement.