Launch of new buildings marks college’s £9.5 million cross-campus expansion

Launch of new buildings marks college’s £9.5 million cross-campus expansion  
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Northumberland College has officially opened state-of-the art learning facilities at its Ashington and Kirkley Hall Campuses, as part of a £9.5 million investment.

The new buildings include an engineering block with a fully-functioning motor vehicle workshop at the college's Ashington campus, arboriculture and tractor workshops and learning resource centre at Kirkley Hall, which all feature the latest industry-standard equipment.

Local employers were invited to take a tour of the college's new facilities at both campuses, including the recently opened The Graduate Hair and Beauty Salon and The Gallery Restaurant;  both commercially-run and open to the public. The college is also in the process of building a STEM centre at Ashington, which will open subject to planning approval in 2016/17 academic year. 

Bill Smith, Lead Engineer of the Tyneside-based Bluebird Project, officially opened the Brunel Building at Northumberland College on Thursday 14 May.

Mr Smith, who is well known for his dedication in restoring the original Bluebird craft, unveiled the new engineering block which features an industry-standard motor vehicle workshop and electrical workshops with real installation bays.    

The Bluebird which is a jet-powered hydroplane, crashed in 1967, killing then world record holder Donald Campbell who was trying to beat the world water speed record at above 300mph (480km/h) on Coniston Water, Cumbria. The team of volunteers recovered the wreckage 15 years ago and have been working to restore it since.

The college donated a milling machine last year to the Bluebird Project, which will allow students access to the rebuild, allowing them the opportunity to gain hands-on skills in their subject. 

Before cutting the red ribbon, Bill said: "I'm honoured to have been invited to open this wonderful facility today which will train the next generation of engineers, who will build tomorrow's oil rigs, satellites and bridges.

The young people that I have met today are so enthusiastic and professional in learning their trade - it's such an important investment into their future."

Kirkley Hall's new workshops and land-based learning resource centre

Business leaders were also invited to Kirkley Hall Campus near Ponteland to view new arboriculture and tractor workshops, learning resource centre and teaching block. Chris Moody OBE, Chief Executive of Landex, officially unveiled the new land-based educational facilities at Northumberland College's Kirkley Hall.

Mr Moody said: "When land-based colleges ask Landex where they can see examples of outstanding improvement, we point them to Kirkley Hall.

"The mix of education and commercial activities provides a strong economic model and a great learning environment. It has been a pleasure to open the new facilities today and the developments to the campus since I last visited have been remarkable."

Landex was formed in 2006 and represents colleges and universities that offer specialist land-based programmes. Northumberland College's Kirkley Hall Campus holds full membership, meaning that significant volumes of high quality further and higher education are provided in at least six land-based occupational areas, with appropriate physical resources to provide students with on-site practical experience. The membership also reflects the college's efforts to uphold strong ties with land-based industry.

Marcus Clinton, Principal at Northumberland College, said: "We would like to thank everyone for coming along to our launch events. It has been a perfect opportunity for employers to see the state-of-the-art facilities we have built at both campuses, ensuring our students will train on the very best equipment in a real industry environment. The investment paves the way for our students to be highly employable across all vocational disciplines that we offer at the college."

He added: "Kirkley Hall has gone from strength-to-strength since I arrived five years ago. The latest investment reinforces the opportunities we give to our students, to work in real commercial environments, in addition to the excellent commercial facilities that are already in place like the zoo.

"This reflects our dedication as a college to ensure the curriculum's facilities are continually shaped to meet employers' needs and get students into work."