Education and Training

Minister opens multi-million pound tech institution 'essential to the economic growth' of the region

Written by: Andrew Merrell | Posted 08 October 2020 17:33

Two visits from a Government minister within a month to Gloucestershire, both celebrating transformational developments in education and training, is nothing to be sniffed at. 

Okay, this week’s visit was virtual – due to the pandemic – but it marked another milestone for the county highlighting yet again developments at Gloucestershire College – this time as part in a new West-wide partnership. 

Last month Gillian Keegan, minister for apprenticeships and skills, was unveiling the college’s new cyber apprenticeship degrees, made possible in partnership with the University of the West of England. 

Today (October 8) was her turn to underline its status as a kingpin of the West of England Institute of Technology (WEIoT) - a partnership of education institutions and employers which aims to deliver up to 2,000 training places over the next five years.

Ms Keegan said: “Institutes of Technology will be the pinnacle of technical training, offering higher technical STEM education and training in key sectors, such as advanced manufacturing and engineering, construction and infrastructure, and digital which will be even more important as we build back better from the pandemic. 

“By collaborating with businesses, IoTs can deliver the technical knowledge and practical workplace skills employers are demanding – like nowhere else.”  

She launched the WEIoT from a safe distance via a virtual event at Weston College (Weston-super-Mare), part of the consortium of education providers and key employers across the West of England.

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There is cash investment into Gloucestershire to back it all up - with more than £3 million in new world-class dedicated cyber, computing and engineering teaching zones at Gloucestershire College’s Cheltenham campus expected to open in March 2021. 

Collaborators also include UWE, Bath College, and Yeovil College as well as employers including GKN Aerospace, Airbus, GE Aviation, Renishaw, Bamboo Technology, University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Trust, St Monica Trust, Jisc, Mayden Academy, National Composites Centre (NCC), North Somerset Council, Leonardo, and Rolls Royce.

Matthew Burgess, Gloucestershire College principal and chief executive officer, said: “In Gloucestershire, we are seeing a boom in the rapid expansion of technical, cyber and engineering companies, and it is of paramount importance that we provide our learners with access to the best facilities, tutors and employers to develop these high-value skills.  

“It is also essential to the economic growth of our region that we work with key employers to ensure that the courses we develop align to the latest technical industry advancements and that they, in turn, have access to the strongest talent pool of future employees.

“We have so much potential in our region, and the Institute of Technology opens up endless developmental opportunities to learn, train and work with the best. 

“Thanks to the IoT funding, excellent employer network and cross partnership course access, we are helping to future proof both the next technical generation of key workers and our region’s economic expansion.”

Dr Paul Phillips CBE, principal and chief executive of the Weston College Group, said: The WEIoT will significantly influence skills development and innovation on both a regional and national basis and the WEIoT strength is working collaboratively with other institutes and employers.” 

Claire Arbery, director of the WEIoT, said: “The WEIoT funding has created opportunities for the educational partners to invest in cutting edge technology to provide their learners and employers with facilities to drive forward the developments needed to help build recovery.  

“The focus on technical skills and education offered by the collaborative approach will bring wider benefits and the IoT will be able to support learners who may not have thought that higher level skills training was for them using our digital connectivity to its full potential.”  

In 2019 the first Institutes of Technology (IoT) were selected through a government-led competition and 12 were awarded – the WEIoT was one of these.  

Facilities at Gloucestershire College’s Cheltenham campus, will include computing labs, attack and defence rooms, forensic tool kits, engineering labs, specialist engineering hardware, eco study pods and an employer networking zone.