A NORTH-East college has been given the go ahead to create a £20m centre of engineering excellence.

Staff at Middlesbrough College celebrated after hearing the Skills Funding Agency had approved their application for a £6.5m grant towards the cost of the £20m STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) Centre.

The facility will meet the needs of employers across a wide range of sectors and produce a highly-skilled workforce for the future, the College said.

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Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said: “I'm delighted to announce £6.5m in Government funding for Middlesbrough College to help transform their campus and improve teaching and learning locally.

“The Government is helping to create specialist facilities that will ensure thousands of students get the best possible learning experience and inspire them to reach their potential, while addressing local skills shortages.

"We are making the skills system more rigorous and responsive to the needs of employers, and this funding will help do that."

Mike Hopkins, College principal and chief executive said: “This is fantastic news for Middlesbrough and the wider Tees Valley.

“The College is determined to do everything in its power to play a key role in generating jobs, opportunities and prosperity across Teesside

“The College is ambitious for its employers, students, communities and its staff and we will do everything possible to make a positive difference.” 

Dr Stan Higgins, Chief Executive Officer at NEPIC - North East of England Process Industries Cluster – welcomed the announcement, saying it was “great news”.

He added: “The STEM Centre of Excellence will address a huge skills gap in both scientific and engineering personnel – a gap that’s developed due to a lack of investment in technical skills over the last 20 years in the UK.

“The £3bn of investments in our sector since 2005, and the £5bn of potential investments in the next five to ten years, will require about 8,000 new technical staff, so the College’s major investment in STEM industries will play a key role in delivering that workforce.”

The grant approval follows the announcement on Monday that the College will deliver the Pre-Apprenticeship element of the Sembcorp Skills Development Programme (SSDP), launched by Business Secretary Vince Cable.

The first group of 15 youngsters to embark on the Sembcorp Skills Development Programme (SSDP) were welcomed to the College by its Principal Mike Hopkins, along with George Ritchie, Senior Vice President for HR at Sembcorp and Philip Jones, Chief Executive of the project’s delivery body - the National Skills Academy for the Process Industries (NSAPI).

Young people are being recruited over the next few months to take up one of the 110 pre-apprenticeship places on offer. The aim of the training is to get the students to a standard whereby they can compete on level skills terms with others for the 100 SSDP apprenticeships which start early in the New Year.