Monumental progress made on South Devon College’s new Hi-Tech and Digital Centre with Topping Out ceremony

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There was great cause for celebration at South Devon College in reaching the highest point in the development of the state of the art £17 million Hi-Tech and Digital Centre.

On Friday 19th October, key stakeholders gathered to mark the next key chapter in the project’s development with a ‘Topping Out’ ceremony at the site of the new facility, in Long Road, Paignton. In attendance were representatives from the various College teams, students, governors and stakeholders from a wide range of partner organisations who have helped bring this project to fruition.

The audience heard speeches from Principal of South Devon College Stephen Criddle OBE, Chair of the Heart of the South West (HotSW) Local Enterprise Partnership Steve Hindley, Director of Education Fujitsu UK & Ireland Ash Merchant, Elected Mayor of Torbay Council Gordon Oliver, and Kevin Foster MP, reflecting on the major recent investment Torbay and South Devon has seen within the hi-tech and digital sectors, and the importance for future skills and careers.

Due to open in September 2019, the innovative £17 million Centre will provide a visionary facility for further education and training support towards ever-expanding hi-tech, manufacturing, digital and creative sectors across Torbay, South Devon and wider regions. The Hi-Tech and Digital Centre is the latest development in the College’s higher education and skills masterplan, working towards future “university status”, with further proposals being considered including future development of student residential accommodation.

Funding to create the world-class facility has been secured from a number of partner organisations including; the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (HotSW LEP), Higher Education Funding Council for Education (HEFCE), European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Garfield Weston Foundation, private investors and the College’s own reserves. The Centre is being constructed by leading local employer Midas Construction, part of the Midas Group.

The three-storey building, designed by talented architects from the LHC Group, includes a link connection to the main Paignton Campus, with a further 15 dedicated work spaces for individual business units as well as two large, open plan collaboration zones, in addition to specialist computing, engineering and design facilities.

Principal of South Devon College Stephen Criddle OBE said, “Recent government and consultancy reports have highlighted that this country suffers from a digital skills shortage. I’m therefore delighted to see the great progress being made through strong partnership working with all involved in the development and realisation of this visionary building. The Centre will act as a focal point for increasing numbers of hi-tech and digital sector students across Torbay and the wider South Devon region, with world-class facilities providing the creative environment for inspiring and enabling future generations of talent to excel. This resource will play a significant part in helping support the growth ambitions of dynamic and expanding local employers in the photonics and wider digital employment sectors”.

Assistant Principal Hi-Tech and Digital Steve Caunter adds, “We continue to see great progress being made with the Centre, further testament to the collaboration of everyone involved from both a construction and design perspective. When completed, the Centre will provide our students with a unique learning environment expanding the already wide variety of courses available at the College to study. From digital design and media to engineering, gaming, cyber security, and photonics, the state of the art facilities will enable students to gain vital technical and creative skills”.

Chair of the Heart of the South West (HotSW) Local Enterprise Partnership Steve Hindley CBE DL said: “Through its Growth Deal with Government, the LEP has invested £8.13m into this Hi-Tech Centre in Torbay. It complements the new Electronics and Photonics Centre (EPIC) next to the site which is also partly funded by the Growth Deal, and, along with this new facility, helps to create a centre of excellence for the hi-tech sector which is flourishing in Torbay and the wider HotSW area of Devon, Plymouth and Somerset. It’s important that we invest in education and skills, and focus on new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) facilities which enable young people to take up higher value careers”.

Director of Education Fujitsu UK & Ireland Ash Merchant said, “We have worked with South Devon College for a number of years and it’s a privilege to be at the opening of the Hi-Tech and Digital Centre today. Technology is moving forward at lightning speed and is transforming the way many organisations – like us – operate and interact with the wider world. In this digitally-driven economy, the skills and experience employers are looking for are changing, this new centre is an incredible way to give young people the digital skills and experience that will define their future careers”.

Elected Mayor of Torbay Council Gordon Oliver said, “My links with South Devon College go back to my days as a student and also as a member of the Board for 20 years. I wholeheartedly support the continued growth of South Devon College and its continuing influence for new technology in the digital age. The growth helps to provide essential further wider education and expanding job opportunities here in Torbay and the wider South West region”.

Torbay MP Kevin Foster adds, “This milestone marks a significant moment not just for this major investment, but for the generations of students who will benefit from being able to access well-paid skilled jobs following being trained here. The Silicon Bay is becoming a reality.”

Sponsorship opportunities to support the development of the Hi-Tech and Digital Centre are available and we would be delighted to talk to you about how you can be involved in this exciting project. For further information please contact Assistant Principal Steve Caunter on 01803 540632 or [email protected] for more information.

For more information about this story please contact Guy Marsden, Marketing & Communications Officer at [email protected] or on 01803 540563.