Oldham College submits plans for new £9m construction centre

OLDHAM College has submitted plans to deliver a new £9m Construction Centre where students can learn the building and trade skills of the future.

The college says the landmark project to be built on the Rochdale Road campus is vital for its development as an expert provider of specialist work-related education and training, where learners meet their full potential.

The new facility will deliver part of the college’s expanding curriculum which focuses on higher skills and is linked closely to employer demand, it said.

The development will see the number of construction students at Oldham College increasing by 70 per cent, with apprenticeships in construction also expanding by an extra 200 places per year.

Learners will get the chance to study skilled technical trades and higher professional skills, including project and facilities management and surveying, through to degree level.

The two-storey Construction Centre will provide an extra 2,345 sq metres of specialist teaching and learning space, which will make the facilities amongst the best available. Oldham College said.

It will include facilities for practical plumbing and electrical work plus flexible build spaces, testing areas, mobile workbenches, break-out and showcase areas, and associated classrooms, offices and storage space. Joinery and external brickworks areas will also be accommodated elsewhere on site.

A detailed planning application including new artist’s impressions of the planned development was submitted to Oldham Council recently. Subject to approval, the project will be completed in the 2020/1 academic year.

Oldham College has chosen Wilmott Dixon, described as the UK’s leading independent construction and property services company, as its construction partner, and international award-winning AHR as project architects.

The total project costs are almost £9m – with 77.6 per cent funded by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority through a £6.95m grant approved earlier this year. The Local Growth Fund is granted to Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

LEPs play a role in economic growth across the country. The Greater Manchester LEP administers Local Growth Fund activity in conjunction with Greater Manchester Combined Authority, which represents the region’s 10 boroughs.
The remaining funding is provided from Oldham College’s own capital funding.

Alun Francis, Oldham College’s Principal and Chief Executive, said: “The new Construction Centre is a vital step in addressing the changing national landscape and debate about the future of skills.

“Government is now recognising the growing need for more work-based and flexible ways to get high-skilled qualifications rather than traditional academic routes of A Levels and three-year residential degrees.

“We’re making transformational changes to our curriculum and facilities to meet this opportunity. This new Construction Centre is going to be a huge asset to Oldham – to generations of learners, local businesses and our economy.

“Last year we had a 30 per cent increase in enrolments in our construction learning, and we’re talking closely with employers about the skills and attributes that successful future job hunters will need.

“This project is also the next step in our wider plans to make Oldham College the best place to learn and work.

“Since 2012 we’ve attracted more than £40 million in investment to modernise our campus, including three new buildings. Much of it has now been regenerated and next summer we’ll also complete the transfer of the neighbouring former GM University Technical College facility into our site. As part of our commitment to growing our specialism in post-16 science, technology and digital skills, the work to fit out this outstanding asset and equip it for that purpose will begin in summer 2020.”

The Construction Centre is the main development in a package of work which will complete Phase 3 of the Oldham College modernisation programme.

The wider programme includes the demolition of the existing Bevan and Bronte buildings which are identified as ‘obsolete’ for teaching use beyond next year. The on-site re-organisation of campus will also create additional space to meet demand for the provision of English as a Second Language (ESOL) as well as the re-accommodation of science, digital design, health professions and English and mathematics into their own specialist spaces.

Enabling works for this development will see the demolition of the existing Bevan and Bronte buildings which are identified as ‘obsolete’ for teaching use beyond next year. The on-site re-organisation of campus will also create additional space to meet demand for the provision of English as a Second Language (ESOL).

Oldham College specialises in technical and professional education and training for hundreds of learners and apprenticeships aged 16 and above. Founded in 1893, it offers an extensive range of courses, including apprenticeships. University Campus Oldham (UCO) is its Higher Education faculty.

Earlier this year, Oldham College was rated ‘Good’ across all areas by its latest Ofsted inspection. UCO was given a Silver Award in the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) by the Office for Students (OfS), placing it on par with some of the best universities and higher education providers in the country.

The former University Technical College building is currently the temporary home to OASIS Academy Lees Brook until the end of the 2091/20 academic year. Oldham College won a Department for Education competition for the future use of the site earlier this year.

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