A multi-million pound bid to revolutionise digital technology education across the South West has reached the final phase of competition with Truro and Penwith College representing Cornwall.
The Department for Education (DfE) is awarding £170 million to establish a network of Institutes of Technology nationally offering top-quality training and apprenticeships in higher-level technical skills.
These aim to bridge skills gaps in the economy by providing the knowledge and training that employers need. The South West proposal would deliver a range of higher level courses across the digital, engineering and manufacturing sectors.
Of 35 original applications, the South West Institute of Technology (SWIoT) bid, led by the University of Exeter, is one of only 16 to progress to the final stage of the process.
The Institute, which could launch in 2021 if funding is granted, is expected to cost £25 million with £15 million provided by Government and the remaining £10 million made up by the partnership.
The proposal draws on expertise from 12 partner organisations. Alongside the University of Exeter and Cornwall’s representative Truro and Penwith College, the Institute also involves the University of Plymouth, Bridgwater & Taunton College, City College Plymouth, Exeter College, and Petroc.
They are joined by digital experts from Oxygen House, Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd, the Met Office, engineering and manufacturing experts from Babcock, TDK Lambda and Watson-Marlow Fluid Technology Group. This bid is also supported by both Heart of the South West and the Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).
Catering for up to 1,549 students, ranging from post A Level to degree apprenticeship level, the Institute would help put the region at the forefront of digital technology learning.
Professor Janice Kay, Provost of the University of Exeter, said: “We’re really excited to have moved to the final phase of this exciting competitive process. The South West Institute would play a pivotal role in inspiring people from across the region to be at the forefront of digital technology learning”.
Andy Stittle, Director of Teaching and Learning at Truro and Penwith College, said: “As a lead partner, Truro and Penwith College is excited to bring an Institute of Technology to Cornwall to address skills gaps in key employment sectors. This will extend our existing employer engagement and apprenticeship programmes into degree level training, providing economic growth and local career routes into sectors such as engineering, marine, space and aerospace.”
Professor Simon Payne, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Plymouth, said: “The University of Plymouth is delighted to see this South West bid proceeding to the final stage.”
Piran Trezise, Director at Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd, said the institute would provide a critical link in the local skills pipeline.
“At Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd, we are delighted to hear that the SW IoT has been shortlisted,” he said. “The proposed institute will provide a critical link in the local skills pipeline by allowing motivated and talented individuals to gain the technical skills needed for progression into the rapidly expanding technology sector in Cornwall.
“In turn, being able to draw from such a local, skilled workforce helps to grow newly formed and existing companies including ourselves and others in the space sector, allows for improved collaborations among businesses, and boosts the economy.”
The SWIoT would establish a range of new facilities across the region, including buildings to teach digital subjects in Exeter, an electronic laboratory in Cornwall for engineering and digital teaching, and a number of both new builds and refurbished existing facilities in Barnstaple, Plymouth and the Bridgwater area.
In a separate announcement complementing these latest proposals, the Government also confirmed that three SWIoT partners, including Truro and Penwith College, have been selected to pilot the new ‘T’ Level qualification, the range of technical courses equivalent to A Levels, from September 2020.