First two national colleges open their doors to students

First two national colleges open their doors to students

The first two of five planned new government-backed national colleges have opened their doors to students, after £80 million was allocated by the government for their development.

Apprenticeships and skills minister Robert Halfon was guest of honour at Tuesday’s official opening ceremony for the National College for Digital Skills, in Tottenham Hale.

A spokesperson said it had taken on 58 students aged 16 to 19, and the aim is “to equip them with the skillsets, mindsets and networks to thrive in tomorrow’s workplace”.

The institution, also known as Ada, has so far received £18.2 million from the London Local Enterprise Partnership’s Further Education Capital Fund and £13.4 million off the Government.

The National College for the Creative and Cultural Industries, based in Purfleet, Essex, which was allocated £5.5m from the public purse, opened to students last month.

It currently only has 16 students and no website, but a spokesperson said this would be up and running by the full brand launch in March.

Principal Jane Button told FE Week: “Students [studying for a level four diploma in technical and production] will learn from industry professionals in real working environments.

The aim is “to equip them with the skillsets, mindsets and networks to thrive in tomorrow’s workplace”

“The work placement element of the course gives a direct line of sight to employment. Our network of industry employers gives opportunities such as the Southbank Centre.”

A college spokesperson added in response to being questioned about the website that “a microsite [not full website] will be launched in the coming weeks”.

Mr Halfon said after the National College for Digital Skills launch: “The young people I met will be the digital innovators of tomorrow. They’ll benefit from top quality training and leading industry work experience. It was excellent to see the remarkable work that the college is doing.”

FE Week reported in December that business proposals for seven different employer-led National Colleges had been considered — but only five were given the go-ahead by the government following due diligence checks.

The breakdown of how much was cash was going to each of the five new national colleges was confirmed five months later.

It was revealed that the National College for High Speed Rail, which is set to open next September and will be located in Birmingham and Doncaster, would receive around £40m for the construction of new buildings and equipment.

The Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, visited the building site for the Birmingham campus two weeks ago, to witness the completion of the building’s main flat roof.

He said: “The UK is highly regarded for its engineering capabilities but we need to do more to attract new talent to the sector as well as improving the skills of the current workforce.

“The National College for High Speed Rail is a vital part of these plans as it will provide the cutting-edge skills we need to deliver HS2 and other world-beating infrastructure.”

It was also confirmed in May that the National College for Nuclear, in Somerset and Cumbria, was to get £15m off the government for buildings and equipment, together with a further £3m from the South West LEP and £4.5m from Bridgwater College. This is set to open next academic year.

The Blackpool and The Fylde College-affiliated National College for Onshore Oil and Gas, set to receive £6m, was also expected to open in 2016/17. But plans are understood to have stalled since Theresa May became prime minister, while they wait to see what level of support her government gives to fracking in the coming months.