As scheduled, Salisbury’s Wiltshire College & University Centre moves into phase two of its £15 million redevelopments, which include the demolition of the existing central building and the construction of a new three-storey building.
It will house new science and engineering labs, construction workshops, a TV studio, canteen facilities and conferencing space, as well as a new entrance.
In phase one, the existing buildings were re-clad and refurbished and the project is part of a £24-million investment through the local enterprise partnership to increase further and higher education provision at the Salisbury and Lackham sites.
Principal Amanda Burnside said the developments played an important part in addressing “higher-level skill gaps” in Wiltshire, particularly in the Salisbury area – and numbers were increasing.
Amanda told Valley News things were needed to keep graduates around.
“A – getting the right curriculum offer, so we’re getting the right courses which attract students, which we’re already seeing,” she said.
“B – having the employers engaged so that students can clearly see their route into a career locally, and C – I think there is a role for Salisbury and the council to play in terms of developing attractions in Salisbury for young people, and I know that’s on their mind.”
She said only some students have been working on the refurbishment through work experience with the contracted builders, but wherever possible they use ‘their own’.
“We have our own painting and decorating apprentices for example, and they’ve been doing an amazing job. Everything you can see that has been painted, has been painted by our apprentices.”
Salisbury MP John Glen said he was happy to see years of discussions come to fruition.
He told Valley News it was all about ensuring the area had the skills and qualifications available locally to match the profile of jobs that existed, and he pointed out a few projects he thinks could attract graduates.
“We have an aeronautical hub developing at Boscombe with investment from Boeing and QinetiQ: we have Life Sciences at Porton Down with the science park and the associated opportunities that come out of Porton Biopharma,” he said.
“And we do have a retail hub in Salisbury which continues to thrive and be competitive, regionally and nationally.”
The MP added that he hopes the arts and cultural scene would be looked at as the cultural quarter is developed. His challenge was to find high quality employment opportunities that allow people to stay for the long term.
During the day, four students demonstrated how to recover evidence from a crime scene; Wiltshire College now has John Glen MP’s fingerprint on file.
With inspiration from Bournemouth University, staff and students collectively designed the labs.
Lab and science technician and teacher Georgia Morgan said everything had improved with the new lab as everything they need for classes are now in one room, so less downtime between tasks, which keep students focused.
One of the aims is to enable students to go through all the stages of education at the college, including completing a PhD.
Amanda said the next challenge is to make sure they keep up with new technologies.
“We’re very excited by the cyber-security defence technology sector, so our vision would be for some sort of cyber-centre on the campus, for which we are creating space, and is certainly something I’ll be exploring over the coming years,” she stressed.