The South West Institute of Technology (SWIOT) Digital and Data Centre at Exeter College has been signed off as part of a wider plan to revolutionise digital, engineering and manufacturing technology education across the region. The new £11million building will be at the heart of the college and located on its Hele Road site in what is great news for the college, city and region.
The SWIOT has now officially been granted approval by the Department for Education, meaning government funding has been formally allocated to support projects across Devon, Cornwall and Somerset with the aim of providing world-class technical education for the next generation of students.
Funding from the SWIOT will help support the development of a new multi-million-pound Digital and Data Centre on Exeter College’s Hele Road site. The new state-of-the-art facility, which is match-funded by the college, will provide learners with opportunities in the digital sector, including courses around data analytics, cyber security and software development.
Planned work with the SWIOT will now be carried out across the South West, with the University of Exeter also set to develop their computer science building, complete with a computer lab and artificial intelligence arena.
The government has supported a small number of Institutes of Technology across the country, following a rigorous selection process. The aim is to reinvigorate the technical education landscape, especially at Levels 4 and 5, to meet the changing and complex needs of businesses. As part of the development process, Institutes of Technology have engaged with employers to identify current and emerging skills challenges.
The core aim of the SWIOT is to provide the education opportunities to proactively plug those skills gaps in industry. The key ‘anchor employers’ who are working with the SWIOT on curriculum objectives are Oxygen House, Babcock, the Met Office and TDK Lambda, with Oxygen House and the Met Office playing a key role in the development of the Digital and Data Centre located at Exeter College.
Exeter College’s new facility will provide a nationally significant and prestigious digital learning centre in the heart of the city of Exeter. The new building, which will be at the front of the Hele Road site, will have digital learning laboratories, IT workspaces, seminar spaces and lecture and presentation facilities. Learners will have access to cutting edge equipment to help gear them up to transition successfully in to the digital or data sector.
Exeter College Principal and Chief Executive John Laramy said, “We are delighted to be at the heart of a new technical skills revolution. The SWIOT has been supported by employers and our key aim is to ensure that the employers in the locality are able to access the right training to support their staff and business.
“The SWIOT is a true example of a partnership where education and industry have been able to work together to create something special.
“This project aligns perfectly with our work as an early adopter developing T Levels. The new SWIOT building here will bring a benefit to all students, creating a new home for higher level and technical adult learners. In addition, this project will enable us to enhance our existing estate to meet the needs of Apprentices and sixth form learners.
“This building also marks the start of our estates masterplan to transform our campus so that we can continue to support the ambition of our students, employers and region.”
The SWIOT consists of a partnership of a number of education providers, including the University of Exeter, University of Plymouth, Bridgwater & Taunton College, City College Plymouth, Exeter College, Petroc and Truro & Penwith College. All partner institutions are also announcing their own plans which have been developed with the SWIOT.
In addition to the ‘anchor employers’, this bid is also supported by both Heart of the South West and the Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).
Oxygen House is one of the ‘anchor employers’ backing the work of the SWIOT. Director of Oxygen House Glenn Woodcock said, “We’re delighted to be working with the SWIOT on this project and can’t wait to see these plans for the region develop over the coming years.
“The partnerships formed as part of the SWIOT will enable businesses to work proactively with education providers to lead curriculum development and meet the skills challenges of the future in a positive way.
“The Digital and Data Centre at Exeter College will play an important part in establishing the South West as a national centre for digital and engineering education and development.”
The development of the Digital and Data Centre is the first phase in Exeter College’s wider campus masterplan, which will see the Hele Road site transformed in the coming years. The ambitious overarching plan details five key phases of redevelopment that will improve pedestrian access between the city centre college sites as well as provide new buildings complete with updated teaching and learning spaces.
The Exeter College masterplan was recently granted unanimous approval by Exeter City Council and the long-term strategy will see the Hele Road site regenerated with new teaching spaces, rejuvenated social areas and an open plan site map.
Work is expected to begin on the new Digital and Data Centre in late 2019.