A new university-level centre in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, will offer a new programme of degrees and degree apprenticeships in an attempt to close the skills gap in the town.
Rotherham College, part of education and training provider RNN Group, will open the new £10.5m higher education centre to students in Autumn 2018.
It’s hoped the project will address the skills gap in Rotherham as currently only 23% of people in the town have a higher education qualification compared to the national average of 36%. This should enable people to take up better jobs, progress in their careers, increase their income and help attract employers to Rotherham.
Work on the Rotherham Higher Education and Skills Centre begins in June and involves the construction of a 3,300m² campus on Doncaster Gate in the town centre.
The new university-level centre will include classrooms, workshops, IT suites, a library, open-plan aided-learning space, a café and social area, and meeting and interview rooms.
An expanded range of higher education programmes will be available to students and employers, with over 50 courses expected to be running by 2020.
The new centre will focus on growing courses in key economic sectors where the local economy needs more qualified people to fill jobs; these include digital, creative, health, technical construction, engineering and leadership and management.
RNN Group has been working closely with employers to develop courses that will address these skills gaps and will be offering degree apprenticeships at the university centre, designed to get people in work into higher education training while they earn.
Routes to access higher education also include new degree programmes for students from local schools and sixth form colleges, and for adult returners to education.
Chief executive of the RNN Group, John Connolly, said: “We know there’s a skills gap in the region and we want to help address it. This project will create a real skills revolution in the town, helping people to achieve things they never thought possible, without having to move away to university and have a huge debt looming over them.
“The centre is very much a part of our organisational response to the Industrial Strategy, Apprenticeship reforms and the proposed changes to technical education of the Sainsbury Review and the Post-16 plan.”
Rotherham Council Leader Cllr Chris Read said: “The new development will see the number of people with higher level skills in Rotherham increase, benefiting both individuals and businesses and will provide a professional venue where businesses can train their staff through programmes which suit their needs or work collectively to offer or access training.”
Sheffield City Region provided funding of £3.5m towards the project, with the balance coming from RNN Group.
Rotherham Higher Education and Skills Centre aims to attract 1,000 additional students over the first five years.
It is also predicted that through higher education training, students will develop the skills they need to set up around 30 new businesses, creating jobs and opportunities for the future.