Plans revealed for £13m space-tech ‘skills factory’

The new facility would have links to Leicester Space Park
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Experts in cyber and space technology are bidding to create a £13m “skills factory” in Leicestershire that could power the county’s economy, post-Covid.

The Leicester and Leicestershire Institute of Technology (IoT) in Space, Digital, Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering aims to help plug the skills gap in the region and help the area recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw Leicester remain in lockdown for longer than anywhere else in the UK.

Now the joint bid has taken a step closer to reality after the Department for Education (DfE) chose it to go through to the next round of applications for one of eight new IoTs in the UK.

The bid is centred on the themes of space, advanced manufacturing and digital skills and will offer training opportunities for local people, help employers to meet skills needs, create jobs, and boost growth and productivity in the local economy as well as supporting the delivery of specialist skills and education elsewhere in the UK.

It is being backed by University of Leicester, De Montfort University Leicester (DMU), Leicester College, The SMB Group (Stephenson College & Brooksby Melton College), North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College, the National Space Centre and employers including Airbus, Reaction Engines and WSP Engineering.

The partners behind the scheme say the IoT would work to address the need for more skilled jobs in Leicestershire by supporting learners of all ages to gain qualifications in STEM subjects ranging from T-Levels to postgraduate.

Professor Nishan Canagarajah, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Leicester, said: “All of us at the University of Leicester are very excited to see this joint bid progress to the final stage for Government funding.

“To reach this stage not only demonstrates the University’s long track record in space science and research, but our commitment to providing skills-based opportunities in Leicester and the surrounding region.

“We look forward to continuing this collaboration with our education and industry partners as we seek to provide further opportunities in our city.”

Professor Katie Normington, vice-chancellor of De Montfort University, said: “To win this bid would mean being able to really use the training expertise we have at DMU as a regional leader in apprenticeship delivery to bolster the development of crucial digital skills throughout the region.

“By working with Leicestershire education partners we will be able to provide a comprehensive, ideal range of experience to ensure this IoT is a catalyst for economic growth and innovation into the future.”

Verity Hancock, principal and CEO of Leicester College, said: “We’re delighted to be collaborating with key partners on this joint bid for a pioneering Institute of Technology in Leicestershire, utilising the combined strengths of local universities, colleges and space-related businesses.

“A successful bid would mean that we can call on a wide range of partner expertise to enable us to develop and deliver new training opportunities at HNC/HND and apprenticeship levels.”

Dawn Whitemore, principal and CEO of The SMB Group, said: “We are delighted to be working with the University of Leicester and key partners in the IoT joint bid process, and excited to be progressing this to the final stages for Government funding.

“Working closely with employers we will continue to develop key skills and training in engineering and agricultural technology at HNC/HND and apprenticeship level.

“This will ensure an industry-driven, learner-led approach to deliver the workforce of the future.”

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