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College backs Barrow Learning Quarter plan

A multi-million pound project led by Furness College to help transform the education landscape in Barrow has moved a step closer.

The college, which is the county’s largest education and training provider, is bidding to develop a Skills Hub as part of the Town Deal and the project has now been shortlisted to go forward as part of a wider proposal for a Barrow Learning Quarter.

Barrow is one of 101 towns selected to bid for £25 million in government cash as part of the Town Deal initiative and must make its case to the Government soon. Seven projects will go through to the next stage including the Barrow Learning Quarter project which comprises the Skills Hub, a new university campus, which the college is partnering with the University of Cumbria to progress, and an Institute of Technology.

Welcoming the decision to shortlist the proposal for a Barrow Learning Quarter, Furness College Principal and Chief Executive Andrew Wren said the scheme formed a compelling project in the heart of the town.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to further transform education in Barrow and we urge everyone to back it,” he said.

“The Skills Hub development will be unique in Cumbria. It will complement the first-class facilities at Furness College’s Channelside campus, which offers technical and professional courses up to degree level. It will be an innovative addition to education across the area and ensure our students are ready to support the high level skills needs of our local businesses.”

If the bid is successful, the Skills Hub will help meet the area’s need for higher-level advanced academic and technical skills by offering courses for school leavers. Post GCSE, students will be able to gain qualifications from level 3 right through to university degree courses.

In addition, the college is leading the submission for an Institute of Technology which, if successful, would sit alongside the Hub offering outstanding progression opportunities for students in Higher Education.

University of Cumbria Vice Chancellor Professor Julie Mennell said the Barrow Learning Quarter project would build on the university’s existing collaboration with partners, including the college, BAE Systems and Lancaster University.

“Working with these partners, the Learning Quarter will provide inspirational space and opportunities for learning comprising a university centre, college skills academy and a multi-partner Institute of Technology. Working in this way, we will build progression routes and extend the wider higher education offer in Barrow. In doing so, we will support individuals, particularly from more disadvantaged backgrounds and areas, to access and benefit from higher education, and provide vital upskilling and reskilling provision to employers.”

Speaking about the Institute of Technology (IoT) proposal Director of Curriculum (Technical, Adult and Employer Learning) at Furness College Steve McAloone said: “We want our students to have a seamless progression from education into excellent careers with good prospects. Through the IoT we would focus on a digital specialism to support a range of growing sectors including advanced manufacturing, health, business and energy.”

For more than 30 years Furness College, which is rated Good by Ofsted, has offered a wide choice of university-accredited HE qualifications and degrees and has more than 500 students on its HE courses at the Channelside campus, including the popular Bachelor of Engineering.

It has been recognised as a leading national performer in education becoming one of the first in the country to achieve chartered status after demonstrating quality across the board and in the government’s Teaching Excellence Framework report, Furness College achieved a silver award.

The college maintains excellent links with industry and is home to the county’s first £4m Advanced Manufacturing and Technology Centre.

Steve Cole is the Chief Infrastructure Officer at BAE Systems Submarine Solutions and is also chairman of the Town Deal Board which has been set up to spearhead Barrow’s bid for the funding.

He said: “We have taken an important step forward in the Town Deal process. Having listened to the feedback from members of the public we have agreed on a shortlist of projects which we will now further develop to see how they might form a part of our final submission to government.

“Your voices have been heard through the #BrilliantBarrow website and social media channels. Everyone’s views were crucial in the shortlisting process – and I would like you all as residents and business owners of the town to once again help us shape our Town Deal plans.

“We will soon be sharing our further thoughts on the shortlisted projects and need as many people as possible to have their say.

“These are exciting times for Barrow as we plan for a very bright future.”

A detailed business plan will now be developed around each project before the final bid is submitted to government this summer. These shortlisted projects will be the priority for the Town Deal over the next five years.

Full details of each of the schemes can be found on the #BrilliantBarrow website www.brilliantbarrow.org.uk, along with details of how to have your say.

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