Ian Austin, Regional minister for the West Midlands has announced that regional development agency Advantage West Midlands has confirmed its support for a £36m investment in the £282 million University Quarter project.
The University Quarter in Stoke on Trent brings together Staffordshire University, Stoke on Trent FE College and Stoke on Trent Sixth Form College in a unique learning quarter that will encourage people to progress into university education.
The University Quarter will see major improvements to an important area of Stoke-on-Trent – between the railway station and the city centre. The improvement will include new shared facilities for the colleges and the university as well as commercial and residential development.
A major focus for the University Quarter will be driving up aspirations and skills to meet the needs of local employers. A Business Centre has already been set up to ensure that businesses in the area have access to the new facilities, and that the courses on offer are tailored for the needs of their employees.
The £282m project has already secured almost £180m from the Learning and Skills Council, Staffordshire University, Stoke-on-Trent FE College, Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Advantage West Midlands. The rest of the investment will come from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, RENEW North Staffordshire and the private sector.
The 400 acre University Quarter is one of a number of key priorities that Advantage West Midlands and the North Staffordshire Regeneration Partnership (NSRP) have identified in North Staffordshire.
Regional Minister Ian Austin said:
“I want to make sure that the economic downturn does not delay the regeneration of Stoke and the investment we want to see in North Staffordshire.
“And I’m determined to ensure we improve education, training and skills in the area because that is the only way we’ll bring to Stoke the new highly-skilled and well-paid jobs on which the area’s prosperity will depend in the future.
“We need to make driving up skills our number one priority because the only way we will be able to attract and develop high-tech innovative businesses we’ll need in the future is by showing investors we’ve got the skills they’re looking for.
“This project will see a massive improvement to an area of Stoke-on-Trent, which to many visitors is their first introduction to the City.”
Business Minister Pat McFadden said:
"Investment like this will help ensure that Stoke emerges from the current economic downturn in a position of strength. It is an important project that will boost the economic future of the region and is exactly what the Government wants to see RDA's supporting. "
Mick Laverty, Chief Executive at Advantage West Midlands said:
“In these times of economic uncertainty it is even more important that we do not lose momentum on this flagship project. This announcement shows AWM’s continuing commitment to the regeneration of North Staffordshire.
“Not only will the University Quarter help to raise the aspirations and educational attainments of local people, it will also regenerate a major site within Stoke-on-Trent for the benefit of the whole community, bringing nearly 1,000 new jobs and hundreds of new businesses to the area.”
Paul Richards, chair of the University Quarter steering group and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Staffordshire University said:
"We are absolutely delighted with this announcement of Advantage West Midlands support for the University Quarter."
"The project relies on the financial support of a number of different organisations and this decision will give confidence to everyone involved enabling us to get on with the delivery of this unique transformation project for Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire."
Councillor Hazel Lyth, the City Council's portfolio holder for Enterprise and Culture said:
"This £36m of funding will help the University to train a highly skilled workforce for the future. The city has a commitment to get as many people into skilled jobs as possible, and this means increased access to higher education.
"We will have a smooth transition for students at local colleges to move on to Staffordshire University, and it will help us increase the amount of people available to take on high quality jobs. The funding will also help with the major physical regeneration of the University Quarter as part of the wider North Staffordshire Regeneration Partnership, and help in creating a positive image for Stoke-on-Trent."
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