COLLEGE staff and students have given the Education Secretary a taste of the technology that is about to transform the way future generations will learn for work.
Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi was shown the new robotics laboratory, which is close to completion, on a tour of Darlington College.
The college has been working with contractors and robotics specialists Cobots Online to develop the latest phase of development for learners.
From September students will be able to benefit from a robotics automation training facility, electric vehicle workshop, technical support lab and a business hub for professional qualifications in a major boost for students and apprentices.
The Robotics Lab will include an automated manufacturing production line utilising different types of robotic equipment along the production process.
This follows a successful bid to the Strategic Development Fund for £2.695m. It came on the heels of a £600,000 grant to develop a business hub for professional qualifications.
Automation is expected to change the labour market with laborious, repetitive tasks taken on by robots that can work 24/7, tirelessly without breaks, thereby reducing overheads and making UK industry more competitive globally.
Darlington College is aiming to train the next generation of hi-tech workers to meet a skills gap for national and local companies and help businesses install, adapt, programme, maintain and repair the cobots (collaborative robots).
Mr Zahawi, who has a chemical engineering background, said: “What a wonderful college. The robotics and engineering facilities here are incredible.”
He spoke with student Alfie Stott, 18, of Richmond, who told him: “I became fascinated with engineering at school and came to Darlington College to develop that interest. The past two years have been so enjoyable that I’m now looking to do a mechanical and civil engineering degree at Northumbria University.”
Mr Zahawi told him: “What you are doing is incredible. The skills and knowledge you have picked up from college will set you on a brilliant path for your future career, whether that’s in the private sector or in the public sector and Parliament like me.”
Darlington College chief executive Kate Roe explained to Mr Zahawi how they had been piloting the new T Level qualification, which focuses on vocational skills and can help students into skilled employment, higher study or apprenticeships.
She said: “We feel extremely proud to be at the cutting edge of this new technology and to be helping develop qualifications for learners that will be relevant to our changing world and provide our economy with a workforce fit for the needs of modern industry.”
Mr Zahawi was accompanied by Darlington’s MP Peter Gibson who said: “It is fantastic to welcome Nadhim to Darlington College to see the amazing facilities on offer to students here and provide an opportunity to view the investment in robotics. We are looking forward to welcoming him back in the future.”
The visit ended with a meal in the college’s restaurant, The Glasshouse, prepared and served by catering students.
The menu included: Seared lamb loin with liver and black pudding bonbiere, celeriac puree, pomme fondant, seasonal vegetables served with a port, red wine and redcurrant jus; a hot self-saucing chocolate souffle with chocolate soil and amaretto cream; handmade petit fours, including milk chocolate Tia Maria hearts, dark chocolate barrels with coconut and Bailey’s Pina Colada truffle filling and white chocolate strawberries and cream.