£15.6m college revamp aims to fill skills gap

Norton College drama students in rehearsal for the Wizard of Oz
Norton College drama students in rehearsal for the Wizard of Oz
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The Sheffield College is embarking on a £15.6m restructuring that will see the closure of Norton and expansion of Hillsborough and the engineering centre at Olive Grove.

Changes are designed to create “21st century learning facilities” and, in particular, to develop courses where there are skills shortages.

Chief executive Heather MacDonald said: “This development from September 2015 is about growth, not cuts, and provides an opportunity for the college to expand its courses and recruit more staff. There is no planned reduction in staffing.”

Two hundred extra apprenticeships will be offered every year in sectors such as advanced manufacturing and engineering, creative and digital media, sport and leisure and tourism. The restructuring is being financed by £10m from the Government’s Skills Funding Agency, while the college, recently graded as ‘good’ by Ofsted, will contribute £5.6m. Savings will be made in maintenance and running costs of outdated buildings.

The Norton campus was taken over by the college in 1992, and is known for its creative, arts, media and sports courses. Some of the site dates back to the 1950s when it was home to Rowlinson Secondary School.

Students, staff and courses will transfer to Hillsborough and Peaks. Students starting courses next autumn will transfer to Hillsborough the following year, with the college pledging to pay any extra travel costs.

A £8.8m extension at Hillsborough will include a theatre and drama and dance studios. New courses will include stage management, lighting and sound, and backstage and technical work. Sheffield has the largest theatre complex anywhere outside London.

There will also be new horticulture facilities.

A £6.8m redevelopment of the applied engineering centre in Olive Grove Road will pave the way for new courses in robotics, control systems engineering, pneumatics and hydraulics, programmable logic control, motor sport, specialist welding and fabrication and metallurgy. These have been identified by the Government-backed Local Enterprise Partnership as priorities for economic growth.

About 1,000 16 to 18-year-olds and 750 adults are taught at Norton by 180 full time equivalent staff.

Ms MacDonald said the facilities were dated.

“We want to invest in our newer campuses, which are well connected to public transport. We will do all we can to make the transition for our staff and students as smooth as possible.”