Kent further education colleges link up for launch of ‘net zero’ skills learning centres

News Posted 28/11/22
Further education providers across Kent will come together early next year for the launch of four exciting and innovative business-focused learning centres to support the region’s transition to net zero.

Buildings that will be home to students studying for new courses focused on decarbonisation will launch in January 2023, the latest part of a government-backed Skills Accelerator project launched in October 2021 by EKC Group, MidKent College and North Kent College, in partnership with the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce.

New decarbonisation learning zones will ensure businesses and their future employees can call upon the skills and best practice needed to support the transition to net zero and make a significant contribution to the UK’s reputation as a global hub for the green economy.

It is hoped that these new centres will help to power the growth of sustainable skills and employment opportunities in Kent and Medway, with a focus on three sectors key to the regional economy: construction, manufacturing-engineering and horticulture.

They will include the following:

  • A Green Engineering and Design centre at EKC Group’s Ashford College and a Green Engineering and Mechatronic lab with electric and assisted vehicle centres based at EKC Group’s Canterbury College

  • A Green Construction and Design Centre based at MidKent College’s Maidstone campus, providing young people and adults with the skills and training they will need to thrive in the modern workplace

  • A Green Horticulture Centre at Hadlow College, part of North Kent College and Kent’s only rural, land-based college

Business incubator spaces for startup SMEs specialising in products or services related to decarbonisation are also being set up alongside each of the three learning zones.

Graham Razey, OBE, chief executive office of EKC Group, said: “The COP27 Climate Summit highlighted the urgency with which the impact of climate change on the planet needs to be addressed.

“The importance of equipping adults and young people across Kent and Medway with the skills that employers will be looking for in the transition to net zero has never been more important.

“We are very excited to be launching our Green Construction and Design Centre in Ashford College, and our Green Engineering and Mechatronic lab at Canterbury College early next year to help businesses flourish and unlock these valuable new skills in the years ahead.”

Simon Cook, principal and chief executive, MidKent College and Chair of Kent Further Education (KFE), which champions the FE sector across Kent and Medway, added: “These new learning centres are a key component of our joint response as a FE sector to the transformation in skills demand that Kent is facing and that our partnership is determined to tackle head on.

“In launching our new Green Construction and Design Centre we have considered key localised evidence of demand from the Local Skills Improvement Plan evidence base, including the roles and expertise employers will need in navigating the transition to a low carbon economy.”

David Gleed, chief executive and executive, North Kent College, added: “The £5.6 million secured from the government’s Skills Accelerator programme is not just about securing skills and training opportunities for adults and young people.

“As this project progresses, we will be looking to engage with as many businesses as we can and invite them to join us and our FE sector partners in devising new skills solutions that will support career opportunities now and in the future. The opening of our new Green Agriculture Centre at Hadlow College is just the start.”

The Kent-wide skills partnership, which launched in October 2021, is aimed at developing a world-leading curriculum focused on creating jobs, opportunities and a more sustainable future.

EKC Group, MidKent College and North Kent College, in partnership with the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, secured £5.6 million in funding from the government’s Skills Accelerator Programme to help support the region’s transition to net zero.

The focus on decarbonisation will ensure the colleges drive efforts to equip the workforce with the knowledge, skills and technological innovation to reduce the environmental impact of industry and play a key role in the area’s economic development.

Pictured (L-R): Graham Razey, Simon Cook and David Gleed

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