The new Engineering Centre of Excellence at Petroc’s North Devon Campus was officially opened by former student and McLaren engineer, Richard Yeo, yesterday (October 16).
Students, staff, employers and local dignitaries were invited to the grand opening and received guided tours of the bespoke facility, and had the opportunity to talk to both students who are using the centre and those involved in bringing the project to life.
In 2014 the college secured £10.8 million of investment as part of the government’s College Capital Investment Fund (CCIF) to transform large parts of its estate and support the delivery of excellent teaching and learning. One aspect of the development was to provide a new building for engineering and manufacturing, to meet growing local demand for specialist training and assessment.
The two-storey Engineering Centre of Excellence spans over 1,000m2 and comprises high-tech CAD facilities, electronics design and assembly and a fabrication and welding workshop, enabling students to gain practical experience using industry-standard equipment and develop valuable employability skills.
Speaking at the ceremony, Diane Dimond, Petroc’s Acting Principal, said: “This new centre is truly magnificent.
“We place the utmost importance on developing the skills of our learners, ensuring that they meet the very specific needs of local, regional and national employers and we are privileged to be able to offer such a fantastic structure as part of our educational facilities right here in North Devon,” said Diane.
“This new building is just one element of our contemporary estate strategy, and Northern and Mid Devon will be seeing continued investment in the estate, including the installation of high specification IT and industry equipment, that will provide our current and future learners with the inspirational environment they need to support them throughout their learning journey,” she added.
Richard Yeo, a former North Devon College apprentice, was guest of honour at the event.
Richard started his career as an engineering apprentice with Parker Instrumentation over 20 years ago. Thanks to his “hard work, determination and a will to succeed” he now works for McLaren and students were thrilled that he was able to bring a ‘supercar’ to the event.
Before declaring the building officially open, he gave an inspirational speech about his career path and spoke passionately about the local engineering industry: “I would like to touch on the importance of engineering in the South West and UK, be it mechanical, electronic, IT or automotive.
“I feel that completing an apprenticeship in any discipline is so important these days as, in the past, the UK, and partly the South West, have suffered from a lack of skilled tradespeople and this has resulted in trade being lost to other countries,” said Richard.
“The UK, as a whole, has a great heritage in engineering, and we need to continue to bring the skills back, and return to where we used to be, many years ago,” he added.
During the event, lectures were taking place in the workshops and classrooms. Jacqui Theakston-Thomas, an engineering lecturer, said: “The students have responded really well to the new facilities.
“It’s such an inspiring environment to teach in and is as close as you can possibly get to simulating industry practice, which obviously increases our students’ employability and enables a smooth transition from college to employment,” she added.
Petroc offers a wide range of engineering qualifications, from the Level 2 Engineering Diploma to Foundation Degrees in Mechanical Design and Manufacture and Electronics and Communications.