Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, was at Scottish Borders Campus and Deputy First Minister John Swinney was at Dumfries and Galloway College to officially launch the Skills and Learning Network across the south of Scotland.

Staff and guests on both sides of the country watched via the latest video conference technology as Angela Cox, Borders College Principal, virtually welcomed guests from Dumfries and Galloway College to the joint live event, before both ministers took the opportunity to announce the network open.

The south of Scotland has benefitted from an investment of just over 6.6 million pounds as part of plans approved by the South of Scotland Economic Partnership (SoSEP), in July 2018, to enable the creation of a digital learning platform and infrastructure that aims to provide access to learning opportunities for individuals of all ages, irrespective of location.

Mr Swinney said:

“The South of Scotland Skills and Learning Network will broaden access to teaching for students and learners of all ages right across the region.

“With a clear focus on areas that have growing regional job opportunities, the ability to develop key skills without having to relocate will provide so many more people with an excellent start to their careers, or the chance to retrain to branch out into new areas.

“Today marks the launch of the network and I look forward to seeing how the colleges develop the technological platform that has been created here to its fullest potential.

“The Scottish Government has now approved funding for 30 SOSEP projects. Alongside the South of Scotland Enterprise agency, which will launch on 1 April, the work of SoSEP will help us maximise the full economic potential of the south.”

Angela Cox commented:

“This innovative partnership enables us to better capitalise on the expertise and resources that exist across the South of Scotland and provide more accessible learning opportunities through our Digital Learning and Skills Network.

“Our schools and employers, such as NHS Borders and Eildon Housing, are already benefiting from the SoSEP investment in our Technology Enhanced Care Hub and STEM Hub. We remain committed to expanding the range of learning opportunities in conjunction with Dumfries and Galloway College in order to deliver on our joint vision of being regionally focussed and globally connected in the delivery of future skills.”

The investment sees a unique partnership between Dumfries and Galloway College and Borders College to develop a network of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) Hubs across the South of Scotland, to address the immediate skills gaps in areas such as Energy and Engineering, Construction and Care.

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These are accessible to school and college students, and employers wishing to try the latest technologies or upskill their current workforce. Digital spokes, located across the south of Scotland in schools, community venues and in local business premises provide inclusive access. Lessons delivered elsewhere will be open for others to participate in, along with online learning resources. Borders College are currently implementing community options for digital spokes.

Through this investment, the colleges are collaborating to develop their offering within their respective regions, especially at higher levels, to meet the needs of local businesses and grow their online flexible learning provision over the next five years.

In addition to the digital Hub and spokes, Borders College has to date used its portion of the funding (£2.3m) to provide new STEM and Care facilities in Hawick and Galashiels:

The Technology Enhanced Care Hub in Galashiels builds on the success of the College’s Care Career Academy in partnership with Scottish Borders Council, NHS Borders and SB Cares. It delivers online and blended learning and assessment for the future workforce across the south in the health and social care sector, as well as upskilling staff in the use of technology to empower individuals to manage their own health and social care needs as part of the integrated service delivery model currently being implemented across Scotland.

The STEM Construction and Renewables Hub in Hawick promotes training and development of new and emerging technologies in the construction and renewables industries. It hosts an ECO House, demonstrating the latest technologies in construction and renewables, and provides a range of technical and digital resources such as 3D printers, drone technology, virtual and augmented reality, and BIM software to support the upskilling of local employees.

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