A new multi-million state-of-the-art university centre is to open in Rotherham.
Rotherham College, part of RNN Group, will open the new £10.5m higher education centre to students in Autumn 2018, offering a new programme of degrees and degree apprenticeships.
It comes after a £3.5m funding injection from the Sheffield City Region.
It is hoped the project will address the skills gap in Rotherham as currently only 23 per cent of people in the town have a higher education qualification compared to the national average of 36 per cent.
Work on the Rotherham Higher Education and Skills Centre begins in June and involves the construction of a campus, on Doncaster Gate, in the town centre.
The state-of-the-art university centre will include open plan aided learning space, a café and social area, and meeting and interview rooms.
A wide range of higher education programmes will be available to students and employers for the first time, with more 50 courses expected to be running by 2020.
The new centre will focus on growing courses in key economic sectors where the local economy needs more qualified people to fill jobs; these include digital, creative, health, technical construction, engineering and leadership and management.
RNN Group has been working closely with employers to develop courses that will address these skills gaps and will be offering degree apprenticeships at the university centre, designed to get people in work into higher education training while they earn.
Routes to access higher education also include new degree programmes for students from local schools and sixth form colleges, and for adult returners to education, who will benefit financially with lower tuition fees, below £7,500 per year, compared to £9,000 or over at many universities, and the ability to live at home.
Chief executive of the RNN Group, John Connolly, said: “This project will create a real skills revolution in the town, helping people to achieve things they never thought possible, without having to move away to university and have a huge debt looming over them.
“There are many advantages for businesses which engage with the project too, and we have already consulted with 200 employers locally and continue to forge close partnerships with major companies, to ensure we offer courses to enhance and build the workforce of the future.”
Rotherham Council leader, Coun Chris Read said: “Having a university centre here in Rotherham is a key part of the town’s regeneration and hugely exciting for the borough.
“The new development will see the number of people with higher level skills in Rotherham increase, benefiting both individuals and businesses and will provide a professional venue where businesses can train their staff through programmes which suit their needs or work collectively to offer or access training.”
Sheffield City Region provided funding of £3.5m towards the project, with the balance coming from RNN Group.
Nigel Brewster, vice chair of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “This is an important and welcomed development which will help both adult students and our regional businesses.
“We have backed the funding because we know there is a skills gap in the region and we want to help address it. This investment in infrastructure will help companies who will be able to recruit skilled workers and grow their businesses, creating more jobs. It is an exciting and visionary way forward which will benefit the whole region.”
The centre aims to attract 1,000 additional students over the first five years.