Willmott Dixon have handed over the keys to Oldham College’s £9m Construction Centre five weeks ahead of the scheduled completion date.
The landmark building will provide a state-of-the-art venue that empowers the college to provide elite technical education facilities to address the skills gap in the sector, enabling students to learn the building, construction and trade skills of the future.
Students will be taught technical trades and higher professional skills right through to degree level – including new T Level qualifications – and access a range of exciting career routes including architecture and surveying, electrical, plumbing and plastering.
Spaced over two stories, the building will provide first-class provision for practical plumbing and electrical work, plus flexible build spaces, testing areas, mobile workbenches, breakout and showcase areas, and associated classrooms, offices and storage space. The facility provides an extra 2,296 sq m of specialist teaching and learning space and will see construction student numbers at Oldham College increasing by 70%, plus an extra 200 apprenticeship places each year.
Alun Francis, Oldham College Chief Executive and Principal, said:
“It’s really exciting for us to get into the Construction Centre and start fitting it out ready for our first batch of learners later this year.
“This will be a fantastic environment for young people and adults to get into a higher skilled trade across the construction and built environment sectors.
"It has also enabled us to expand our curriculum into areas with known labour skills shortages like internal design, dry lining and kitchen fitting.
“We’re extremely grateful to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority for their assistance in funding this project.
"Also to Willmott Dixon who have done a fantastic job delivering this ahead of schedule, and on budget.
"We can’t wait to showcase this facility to learners and businesses across Greater Manchester later in the summer.”
The Construction Centre project got planning permission in late-January 2020 with Willmott Dixon as the lead contractor and national award-winning AHR as architects.
The scheme has included the demolition of the obsolete Bronte and Bevan teaching blocks.
Willmott Dixon had just started enabling works on the project, procured through the Scape Major Works framework, when the first national COVID-19 lockdown hit in March 2020 – but that didn’t mean ‘tools down’.
Working to the Government’s emergency measures on social distancing and construction sites, the project team have been able to continue working on-site.
Anthony Dillon, Managing Director for Willmott Dixon in the North, said:
“As a business based in Oldham, we’re committed to transforming lives, creating opportunities and strengthening our community.
"We’re hugely proud to play our part in creating these exciting new facilities and creating a pathway for the next generation of Greater Manchester construction professionals to gain the skills and experience, our industry and our region needs."
The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) contributed a £6.95 million grant towards the £9 million project costs with Oldham College providing the remaining capital funding.
The Local Growth Fund is granted to Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and LEPs play a vital role in driving forward economic growth across the country.
The Greater Manchester LEP administers Local Growth Fund in conjunction with GMCA.
Lou Cordwell, Chair of the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership (GM LEP), said:
“Fantastic progress has been made on Oldham College’s new Construction Centre, which we are proud to be backing through the Local Growth Fund.”
“The construction sector will play a vital role in driving our recovery as we emerge from the pandemic, but it also suffers from a skills shortage."
The project marks the latest in a long-standing relationship between Oldham College and Willmott Dixon. In 2015 the company handed over the 2,400 sqm ‘Block C’, a new three-storey extension that provides cutting edge facilities for the study of health, beauty, travel and tourism. The company is continuing to build state of the art education facilities in the region as it progresses with the build of LTE Group's Manchester city centre campus for The Manchester College. Once complete, the £54m facility will provide a learning centre of excellence for creative and digital industries across Greater Manchester.