The building of a state-of-the-art Digital Academy at Northampton College is now underway, with the first spades going in the ground during a virtual sod-cutting ceremony carried out via a live video conference call.
With current social distancing guidelines rendering it impossible for all partners in the project to be at Booth Lane for the ceremony, it was decided to embrace the digital technology the building will offer by staging it over the internet using Microsoft Teams.
The £6.3million project has received 50 per cent funding from the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership’s share of the Local Growth Fund. It will see a 1,300 square metre extension built onto the existing main college building at the Booth Lane campus and aims to attract more than 5,000 additional learners by 2030.
Students will have access to a state-of-the-art learning environment that includes an Esports arena, a TV studio, digital workshops, a Mac suite and a digital design studio plus a whole range of specialist facilities and equipment.
Pat Brennan-Barrett, principal at Northampton College, said: “We live in a world where new technologies play a vital role across the economy and society, from the basic digital skills people need to maximise life’s opportunities and the general digital skills now needed in almost every job, to the specialist knowledge for particular technical roles.
“Technology is rapidly transforming the nature of work and increasing the demand for new types of digital skills. These digital skills are likely to be even more important to the economy as we emerge from the current COVID-19 crisis.
“The Digital Academy will offer a range of courses and apprenticeships, allowing individuals to explore digital career opportunities and progress through a pathway of qualifications leading to higher education, apprenticeships and real-life job opportunities. We will be working closely with employers to address the skills gap in the region and ensure that our offer suits their requirements.
“Our Digital Academy courses will help to fast track students into digital careers and improve their professional IT skills. We offer pathways that lead to ‘in demand’ digital jobs in software development, cyber security and digital marketing.”
Northampton College will engage with the South Central Institute of Technology at Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes and employer partners to develop a bespoke new digital curriculum for students using the facility, which will be built by construction company SDC.
Judith Barker, Director of Programmes and Governance at SEMLEP, said: “We are delighted that the Local Growth Fund is able to support Northampton College’s new Digital Academy. This facility will offer a world-class centre for digital technology and provide students with improved digital skills vital to future employer needs in the South East Midlands. These digital skills are likely to be increasingly important to the economy as we emerge from the current crisis.”
The Digital Academy will welcome its first students from September 2021 onwards.