A GROUNDBREAKING new educational facility full of state-of-the-art tech will train future inventors and innovators from around the county.

The £21 million Swindon and Wiltshire Institute of Technology at New College's North Star campus is now up and running after a five-year journey which began with bidding for government funding, struggled through the challenges of carrying out major renovations during a pandemic, and adding finishing touches while welcoming the first cohort of students. 

Impressed experts, business representatives, and Swindon dignitaries looked around in amazement as they received a tour of the engineering, film and TV, e-sports, IT, business, and science rooms.

Swindon Advertiser: VIPs attending the official opening of the Swindon and Wiltshire Institute of TechnologyVIPs attending the official opening of the Swindon and Wiltshire Institute of Technology (Image: Dave Cox)

The university-equivalent courses have been designed with the help of local employers and industry professionals so that graduates have the skills and knowledge needed to find good well-paid jobs, and are prepared for the future.

Nearby universities like Oxford Brookes have collaborated with New College to develop the site, which fills a huge gap in the town's educational provision and is the single biggest investment in skills training ever made in the entire south west.

New College principal Carole Kitching welcomed dozens of guests to the official opening day on Thursday and explained how the degree-level courses on offer to post-college students will help transform the town.

A site with a history

She said: "The building we are standing in was built on the site of the first GWR locomotive works in 1843, where the very first apprentices in Swindon started their training.

"Now we celebrate the 21st-century manifestation of skills training which is rooted in the past and focused on the future.

"These courses will help forge the development of a high-skill, high-pay economy and attract further investment from businesses.

"Work with us, take this building and transform it into a powerful engine to drive our economic prosperity."

Speaking to the visitors at the end of the tour, the Adver heard nothing but praise for the cutting-edge classrooms and optimism for the future of the area.

Swindon Borough Council leader David Renard said: "I remember walking around here when it was still a construction site.

"You could see the potential then but to see it now with the work completed and all of the state-of-the-art tech in place is fantastic. It's all impressive, from the media suite to the robotics in engineering.

"It's a great day for Swindon, and a fantastic opportunity for young people with big aspirations without them needing to leave the town."

South Swindon MP Sir Robert Buckland added: "We were determined to make sure that Swindon would be the hub for an IoT project back in 2018.

"I lobbied the then-education secretary saying it was a no-brainer to go for Swindon, because with its industrial history and bright technological future, there's no better place to host an Institute of Technology.

"We need to inspire young people and those at a later stage in life to get those all-important qualifications that lead to higher wages and help our economy."

His North Swindon counterpart Justin Tomlinson MP agreed: "I'm blown away by the exciting opportunities that this will unlock.

"The amazing high-tech facilities will inspire the next generation and the courses will maximise the chance to access good jobs. It's great for students, for employers, and for Swindon."

Paul Moorby is the chair of the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership. He said: "As an employer, it's exciting to see a facility that has all the key skills for the next revolution in the industry, whatever that may be - manufacturing, creative, technological.

"I applaud what's going on here, it's fantastic, it is genuinely world-class."

"The next CEO of a billion-pound company could be trained here. Let's hope the students use the facilities wisely!"