New university centre ready to do the honours

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The city’s new university centre is complete and it will welcome its first students later this month.

Developers handed over the keys for the £7m building, named the Advanced Skills and Innovation Centre, to Wakefield College this week.

Senior staff said the centre, on the college’s city campus off Bell Street, promises to “transform” high-level education and training in the district.

College principal Sam Wright said: “This is another milestone for everyone associated with Wakefield College and marks a new chapter in our recent history.

“With the keys now firmly in our hands we can really look forward to opening our doors to this fantastic and vibrant new facility in the heart of city.”

The new building includes engineering laboratories, a 90-seat lecture theatre, computer suites and learning space.

It also has a business area where students and local entrepreneurs can work together on projects.

The centre will offer university-level education including courses in engineering, game development, creative and digital industries, web technologies, computing, sports and teacher training.

Its capacity means the college will be able to take on more students and offer a wider range of courses.

The centre aims to increase the number of people with higher-level qualifications in the district. And it is hoped it will bring a boost to the local economy by filling the region’s skills shortages and developing expertise linked to the needs of employers.

The Leader of Wakefield Council Coun Peter Box said: “This heralds the start of a new era in Wakefield that will give our young people the opportunity to get higher level skills, right here in the district and give businesses access to a more skilled local workforce.

“It’s great to see the building now in the hands of the college staff and we all look forward to welcoming students.

“This is another step towards achieving our ambition for this city to gain university status.”

College staff and students held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the handover of the centre this week.

A series of tours and events are planned for the coming months to showcase the new centre and its facilities with businesses, students and employers. An official opening will then take place with a new intake of students in autumn.

The building was part-funded by the college with support from Wakefield Council and a £3.3m package from the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, which aims to accelerate growth and create jobs in the area.

Wakefield College has been providing education and training in the district for nearly 150 years, since it first opened in 1868.

It currently takes around 600 students onto higher education courses each year.

And the new building will give the college the capacity to take a further 350 by 2021.

The centre will also mean it can increase the number of full-time university level courses it offers.