Oldham College has been given the keys to its new £9 million Construction Centre by contractor Willmott Dixon – five weeks ahead of schedule.
The Rochdale Road college say the state-of-the-art venue will offer 'elite technical education facilities to address the skills gap in the sector'.
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 career routes including architecture and surveying, electrical, plumbing and plastering.
The Construction Centre will provide 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 view of the new £9 million Construction Centre at Oldham College from on campus
The two-storey 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 per cent, 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, and it has also enabled us to expand our curriculum into areas with known labour skills shortages like internal design, dry lining and kitchen fitting.
“This development is absolutely crucial to our strategic plans and it puts our facilities on a par with the very best across Greater Manchester.
“We’re extremely grateful to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority for their assistance in funding this project, and 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.”
ELEVATION: The new £9 million Construction Centre at Oldham College – rear elevation viewed from Rochdale Road.
Construction during Covid-19
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.
“It is thanks to the strength of the relationships and collaboration between our team, Oldham College and all our local design and supply chain partners that we have overcome the unprecedented challenges of the past year, completed the project, and, most importantly, kept everyone safe on site”.
STATE-OF-THE-ART: First floor view from inside the Construction Centre showing the atrium outside classrooms and staff offices.
Regeneration and funding
The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) contributed a £6.95 million grant towards the £9 million project costs, with Oldham College putting in 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. This facility will equip people with the building and trade skills of the future, helping to lift the sector’s productivity and make the most of new industry methods. The Construction Centre will be an asset to Oldham and Greater Manchester, and we’re excited to see it open later this year.”
SKY’S THE LIMIT: Atrium from Ground Floor of the new Construction Centre
Oldham College has also confirmed that it has just incorporated the former GM UTC building into its estate.
The £9m four-storey facility has spent considerable time vacant or under-used since it was built in 2014. That building is the new home to the Faculty of Caring Professions, English and maths, and science.
By September this year, it will boast new high-specification simulation suites mirroring a nursery and a clinical hospital ward.
HANDOVER: Anthony Dillon, Managing Director, North for Willmott Dixon, officially handing over control of the new Construction Centre site to Alun Francis, Oldham College Chief Executive and Principal.