Vocational training will be crucial to improving social mobility as the UK deals with a skills deficit in certain industries, according to the deputy CEO of Leeds City College.
Leeds City College is set to open a new £60m campus, that will house its Social Sciences, at Quarry Hill in Leeds next summer.
Bill Jones, deputy CEO of Leeds City College, said: “Vocational training is critical to social mobility because we have in the country, at the moment, skills gaps and skills shortages at a technical level, levels four and five.”
Mr Jones believes the new Quarry Hill campus will help raise aspirations amongst the college’s students.
He said: “We take people from all backgrounds, all abilities, all socioeconomic backgrounds.
“What this will do is raise the aspirations of those that are from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, from traditions where perhaps education wasn’t highly valued in the past.
“We wanted to demonstrate to those young people that there are lots of opportunities out there.”
The Quarry Hill campus will be located in a cultural quarter of Leeds with the likes of the BBC, Leeds Playhouse and Northern Ballet situated nearby.
“That was a huge factor in the choice of location for this building,” Mr Jones said. “We wanted to be central to that cultural quarter as some people call it.”
Mike Diaz, project manager for Leeds City College, says the facilities on campus will replicate those of its new neighbours.
He said: “The facilities that we’ll have over here are actually very linked to the Playhouse. A lot of the equipment we tried to simulate so that the students can transfer their skills across from a smaller theatre.”
Mr Jones says the importance of the arts must not be overlooked.He said: “Having a vibrant, creative, cultural centre is what attracts people to cities.”
Leeds City College has over 20,000 students. The new campus will be home to 3,000 students when it opens on August 23.
The college will be closing its technology campus on Cookridge Street and moving all the staff to Quarry Hill. Some provisions will also move from its Park Lane campus to the new site.
The new campus represents an investment of £60m with the college receiving over £33m in grants from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.
Building work, expected to be completed by July 12, is being carried out by Wates Construction.
Dave Clarke, project manager for Wates, said the build has thrown up a “few challenges”.
He added: “It’s quite a tight site logistically from a construction perspective. We’ve had to work with the council to make sure we can get access to and from materials.
“It’s actually a very complex structure because of the needs of the end users. The structure doesn’t have a fixed grid. There aren’t many rooms in there that are the same.”