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Bridging the skills gap

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Geared to providing much-needed state of the art practical training, an innovative new 2,065m² Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) centre is taking shape in a £6.59m project on the Isle of Wight College campus in Newport.

The new building will provide large flexible learning spaces, industry standard workshops and high technology resources to support a broader more relevant curriculum in STEM subjects to meet the needs of Isle of Wight learners, local employers, the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and other stakeholders.

The project is being carried out by main contractors Wilmott Dixon and is progressing well, on programme and on budget. Architects are Pick Everard.

Under construction on a former car park, the building is of piled, steel frame construction with accommodation over three floors. It has been designed to complement the recently built Sixth Form Centre adjacent to it, with similar metal cladding and curtain walling, with brightly coloured render. To show the college’s support for the renewable sector, solar panels and a wind turbine will be mounted on the building’s flat roof. External works will include landscaping.

The college has consulted with key island employers to ensure the facility is appropriately equipped as a state-of-the-art learning environment. It will incorporate the very best engineering training facilities covering robotics, pneumatics, hydraulics and CAD/CAM.

Located on the ground floor of the building, these facilities include science labs, an electrical and electronics workshop, a technical drawing and CAD suite, and facilities for training in dimensional control and testing, and Emco CNC lathes and mills.

A further workshop is dedicated to providing exciting and experiential engineering training for primary and secondary schools. Computing and engineering students at the college will become STEM ambassadors, working with the children on building and programming with systems such as Lego Mindstorm and Active Robots.

The first floor of the building is dedicated to training in functional skills and GCSEs and the second floor will be used for instruction in computing and robotics.

David Louden, Isle of Wight College’s Head of Projects New Builds, told Premier Construction:

“There is a huge skill shortage in engineering. One example of this is that employers on the island are telling us that they cannot get CNC operators because there simply aren’t any available, which is why we are providing this training facility to fill a gap in the market. For young people to become engineers they need something to spark the initial enthusiasm in them – and this new facility will do that – it is really quite exciting.”

Work began in April 2014 and the building is due to be handed over by March 2015.

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