Swindon has been chosen as one of 12 locations where government-backed Institutes of Technology will be opened.
A £21m bid led by the University of Gloucestershire, Swindon College, and New College Swindon was given the green light today (Wednesday).
The bid – one of more than 100 submitted to the government – was also backed by Oxford Brookes University and Cirencester College, and by some Swindon’s biggest employers, including Nationwide, BMW Group, Catalent Pharma Solutions, Excalibur Communications and Recycling Technologies.
The Institute of Technology – which will be built at Swindon College – will form a key part of the Government's shake-up to technical education.
That includes introducing new T Levels from 2020 - the technical equivalent to A Levels - and more high-quality apprenticeship opportunities.
Announcing the successful bids the Prime Minister, Theresa May said: I firmly believe that education is key to opening up opportunity for everyone.
"But to give our young people the skills they need to succeed, we need an education and training system which is more flexible and diverse than it is currently.
"New technologies are transforming the world of work, and to harness the opportunities on offer we must equip our future workforce with the technical skills they need to thrive, and that the economy needs to grow.
"These new Institutes will help end outdated perceptions that going to university is the only desirable route and build a system which harnesses the talents of our young people."
Swindon College principal Steve Wain said: "We are absolutely delighted to receive this news. I would like to congratulate and thank all those colleagues and anchor partners who worked so hard in supporting, preparing and delivering the applications as part of the bid and for making this such a success.
"We were in fierce competition with 130 Colleges at the start of the process and through the bid stages we progressed to the final interview stage and are one of only 12 winning groups.
"Today’s news is incredibly positive. This is a significant development and the £21 million investment will allow us to train over 1000 students and apprentices in higher level STEM-based subjects.
"The project is crucial in helping to support the vision and continued focus on developing opportunities and growth for Swindon, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.
"Timings for the project are being reviewed to enable us to work with the Department for Education to ensure that as a College, we are able to show our success in delivering demonstrable improvements since the last inspection by OFSTED.
"We are provisionally planning for the IOT to open in 2021. The capital investment will lead to a significant upgrade at the North Star site in Swindon and also at Cirencester College."
New College Swindon's principal and CEO, Carole Kitching, said: “New College is delighted to be an anchor partner in the development of Swindon’s Institute of Technology.
"This is great news for Swindon and the wider region with the Institute set to become a beacon for higher level technical skills training and development, a real partnership of businesses with education providers.”
The scheme was also backed by Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership. Chairman John Mortimer said: “Enabling businesses to have appropriately skilled and competitive workforces to support growth, innovation and creativity remains an investment priority for the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership.
"I am delighted that Swindon College’s bid for an Institute of Technology has been successful. The central government investment of £17m, and the support of so many of our local businesses, is a particularly welcome boost to Swindon’s economy.
"The SWLEP looks forward to continuing our work with Swindon College, the anchor employers and partners to support the implementation of this project over the coming months.”
And Ian Larrard, director of Swindon and Wiltshire Initiative at Business West, said: "The strength of Swindon’s anchor employers - key local businesses committed to working with education providers to support curriculum development and provide work placements for students – were no doubt instrumental in the government’s decision to locate here.
“Business West played a vital role in engaging anchor employers and galvanising the business community to get behind this bid, with our members Nationwide, Catalent Pharma Solutions and Excalibur Communication all signing up to back the IoT.
“Given the lack of a higher education offering in Swindon, the IoT is a much-needed addition to the present offering which will help businesses in Swindon and the local area continue to grow and prosper.
“Furthermore, it will boost the confidence of our young people by improving awareness of STEM career pathways in Swindon and creating parity of aspiration between academic and technical education.”