The creation of the city’s new £7m higher education centre was a “landmark” moment in the journey towards Wakefield getting its own university,
That was the message from Wakefield Council leader Coun Peter Box and Wakefield MP Mary Creagh as they officially opened the building, at the heart of the city’s college campus, yesterday.
After they unveiled a plaque to mark the occasion, Ms Creagh said: “This is a landmark building for the city. It is part of the transformation of the city centre, but also of its social and economic life. We have a skills gap in Wakefield and this building will help us to fill it, bringing more business, jobs and growth to the area.”
She added: “We have started the process of applying to award our own foundation degrees and that is the first step on the ladder for Wakefield in becoming a university city.”
Coun Box said talks were taking place with The Hepworth, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Production Park, “to look at using our culture, music and technology selling points to create a unique university offer”.
He said: “One of the key issues for Wakefield is making sure that more people have the higher level skills they need and this centre is clearly going to help with that ambition. We all remain committed to getting university status for Wakefield.”
The pair were joined by staff and students from the college as well as business partners from across the district.
The building, formally called the Advanced Skills and Innovation Centre (ASIC), welcomed its first cohort of students earlier this month.
It includes teaching facilities, engineering labs, a lecture theatre, IT suites and business incubation space.
The centre means Wakefield College can offer more higher level courses.
The college also plans to increase its intake of higher education students to 950 by 2020.
Principal Sam Wright said: “We have been totally committed to getting this centre up and running for a long time and to see it full of students and now officially opened, is a really, really proud day.”
The building was funded by the college as well as through a £3.3m grant from the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP). Its development means those who want to study at degree level do not have to leave the city to do so.
Coun Box said: “It has been a personal priority to see this delivered for younger and older people, who now have the opportunity to access, close to home, the learning and training they need to reach their full potential.”
And Roger Marsh, chair of the LEP, added: “The business incubation space will also create a centre for local firms to advance and progress, harnessing new technologies and ways of working.”