Wigan and Leigh College proud of new facility which is offering something new for students in the town

Wigan and Leigh College bosses say they are proud to be able to offer something new and different for students in the town after taking over the former university technical college building.

Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 9:26 am
Updated Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 9:26 am

The new facility opened back in September, and is focused on advanced technical studThe college has worked in partnership with Wigan Council, Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Hospital Trust, and Edge Hill University to create the facility. ies.

The key sectors of this are: digital, health and social care, and engineering, with their new flagship T-levels being a part of this, of which principal Anna Dawe is extremely proud.

She said: “It’s superb to see the building back in use and it is offering something quite different to what the college has had before. Nationally there is a bigger focus on advanced technical studies.

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Anna Dawe

“It is a real focus that is about higher level technical skills, but also bringing employers into the building. They come in and use the space, which means the students get to see them and work with them.

“The employers are more involved with course delivery and design, which is just fabulous because it is motivational.”

The college has worked in partnership with Wigan Council, Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Hospital Trust, and Edge Hill University to create the facility.

“The uniqueness of it is we can offer opportunities that were not necessarily there before,” said Ms Dawe. “The building is very much used by our partners, so the students can be involved with some of the projects, while some have been offered placements by the council.

The facility has a focus on advanced technical studies

“It’s really good because they get that exposure to employment. We are a significant trainer for apprenticeships and we go right the way up to degree level. It’s something we want to widen out and for our borough it is very important.

“Our version of levelling up is equipping people for higher level skills so they are able to go out and get those higher paid jobs. As well as attracting the employers to our borough, because the skills agenda goes hand in hand with that.”

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Ms Dawe believes the university link is a key addition to what they can offer as a college.

The college has worked in partnership with Wigan Council, Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Hospital Trust, and Edge Hill University to create the facility.

“Edge Hill can deliver from this building, so people in Wigan no longer have to travel to other universities and can stay local. For our students, it’s all of a sudden on their doorsteps. They can stay and do their higher education.

“It’s more convenient for lots of reasons. They’re with tutors who still know them and just provide a whole opportunity.

“There is a five-year plan, there is a lot of provision we want to bring in, but it will also increase the numbers of people studying at degree level and above.”

Originally a mill, the building on Parson’s Walk has changed its use several times since. Many more senior Wiganers still call it “The Old Gas Showrooms” but it has also housed the council’s planning department and until two years ago was Wigan UTC until it was forced to close through lack of students and funding.

Ms Dawe believes it is important they stepped in and made use of the space.

“When it became available it was something that fitted in with our strategic plan.

“Obviously it is straight over the road and I think the chance to create that campus feel was an opportunity that was too big to miss. We started work in January and there has been a substantial re-fit.

“It’s quite an iconic building in the town, people keep telling me it was the gas showrooms, but our college at one time used to be on the upper floors, so historically we’ve always been involved.

“It’s great to have it back and to give it a new lease of life. It has allowed us to reinvest and bring realistic working environments to the students, and they absolutely love it.

“They enjoy it’s got a more adult feel to it, which has had an impact on their ambitions and is helping them to plan their next steps.

“What we want to see more of is adult engagement, which is reskilling and re-training. It appears to be back on the agenda, but it’s something we never stopped, we just couldn’t do it to the scale that we wanted. With this facility we can focus on it.”

Something Ms Dawe is proud of is the painting that is located in the reception, which shows the pit brow lasses and is a reminder of the college’s mining past.

She said: “It was commissioned by the college in 1887, and has been in our possession for all those years and is a nod to our heritage. This building has enabled us to bring it out and make it a pride of place.”

She is also pleased with the other key features in the facility, which helps to create an adult setting.

“A lot of our students have not experienced a lecture before going to university, so to have a state of the art theatre is great because we are now able to offer that experience.

“Meanwhile, the clinical skill wards are very realistic and we have also launched our digital academy, which has been a real addition.

“The students love the canteen area because they are able to work and plug their devices in. For them to settle down and make the most of their studies is great.

“Coming in on the back of lockdown, some of them have been able to come back in the way they have wanted. It’s made the vast majority so much more determined, and reminded them not to take things for granted.

“It’s lovely to have the entire community back in and the exciting thing is the main campus will also see substantial estate work in the next few years.”

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