GUEST COLUMN: Plans will bring world-class higher education to Mansfield and Ashfield, by Dame Asha Khemka, principal of West Notts College

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I have spent much time in recent months speaking with other principals, with business leaders and with government ministers about how we can power economic growth across our region.

The consistent message coming back is that we need to develop higher-level skills across all sectors – particularly in areas like advanced manufacturing, engineering and creative industries – to create the leaders who will continue to steer our businesses towards prosperity.

Too often I hear employers decry the lack of advanced skills within our communities.

It’s clear that if we are to develop and grow the economy within Mansfield and Ashfield, we must address these skills deficits.

That’s why the new £6.5m Vision University Centre currently under development at our Derby Road campus is one of the most exciting in the college’s history – and the realisation of a long-held ambition by many in the town.

Work started on this state-of-the-art facility, part-funded by the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership, last October.

Once complete, it will deliver a range of solutions for local people to develop the advanced skills that employers tell us are so essential – not only for their success but for individual prosperity.

For as long as I’ve been principal, we have talked about a university for Mansfield and Ashfield.

In September we will proudly open the doors to a centre that has all the ingredients of a university, where local people can access an excellent standard of higher education right here on their doorsteps.

Provision within the centre will be wide-ranging – from degrees validated by the University of Derby and Birmingham City University, to Higher Apprenticeships, professional programmes such as AAT, CIPD and CIM, and one-day ‘insight’ sessions.

We are committed to working in partnership with local business.

I am excited, therefore, that on Tuesday February 9, we’ll be outlining our plans for the new centre to more than 40 employers at a breakfast seminar, where we’ll also be asking them what they want it to offer.

Employers can still secure their free place by contacting Tina Wakelin on 627191 or emailing tina.wakelin@wnc.ac.uk.

The university centre will be a landmark development for the college with a firm and inspiring message to our young people, our communities and employers – that access to world-class higher education, higher-level skills and Degree Apprenticeships is available on your doorstep.