Friday, November 24, 2017

News: Rapid progress on pioneering University Centre Rotherham

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With the steelwork up and concrete being poured, contractors working on the new £10.5m University Centre Rotherham (UCR) are making rapid progress on creating a new beacon for the town.

Businesses from across Rotherham visited the UCR site this week as part of the Rotherham Pioneers breakfast meeting, which centred around celebrating Rotherham and its future.

The meeting was an opportunity for Phil Sayles, deputy principal of the RNN Group, to explain how UCR will work closely with local employers to shape education that will ensure that students have the skills and experience they need to go into successful careers and drive the Rotherham economy.

Alan Neal, construction manager at Willmott Dixon, who are leading on the project, discussed the progress of the build where work is ahead of schedule.

In autumn 2018, the RNN Group will open the centre on Doncaster Gate, near its Rotherham College Town Centre Campus. UCR will offer state-of-the-art facilities and a wide variety of degree courses accredited by top universities and awarding bodies, including Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Hull, with plans for over 50 courses to be running at UCR by 2020.

Sayles told attendees: "It is going up really quickly. All the steelwork is up and contractors are moving on to other areas. The new centre sends a message about higher education opportunities in our town."

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The 35,500 sq ft campus building has been designed by Bond Bryan to accommodate approximately 560 people on a typical term day but will be built with expansion in mind and teaching space for approximately 1,000 students.

Rotherham Council has provided the land for the campus in a cut price deal. The Sheffield City Region (SCR) Combined Authority has agreed to fund infrastructure works. A grant of £3.5m has been approved with the balance coming from RNN Group.

Sayles discussed the issues around higher level skills in the area where the percentage of people with degree / HND level qualifications is 10% lower than the national average and described a "starkness" in participation from different areas in the borough.

The UCR is about making sure local people have the confidence and ambition to gain those much-needed higher level skills but it is also about closings the skills gaps holding back local businesses.

Estimated to attract 1,000 additional students over the first five years, the UCR's model is based on offering an alternative technical education with Level 3 courses and apprenticeships up to degrees and degree apprenticeships at Level 4 to 7.

RNN Group, which encompasses Rotherham College, North Notts College and Dearne Valley College, alongside apprenticeship business, RNN Training, has been working closely with 200 of the 1,000 employers it has links with to develop courses that particularly meet a need for the local economy.

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Sayles explained to attendees how businesses can work with the UCR in influencing teaching, setting real world briefs for students and talent spotting the graduates. "UCR will bring massive, positive change to businesses in our town" he said.

The group is also in the process of setting up a number of employer advisory groups. A good relationship with NHS Trusts led to the establishment of a health sector group with more set to follow based around construction, the visitor economy, IT and engineering.

The RNN Group is a founding member of the Rotherham Pioneers - an exclusive group for Rotherham businesses who want to promote the town, celebrate all that is good, and grow the Rotherham business community. The next event is scheduled to be held at Grimm & Co in December.

UCR website
Rotherham Pioneers website

Images: Tom Austen

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