The Marches LEP has signed a £2.34m deal to fund the transformation of a former school into facilities for Hereford’s proposed new university. 

The funding will be used to refurbish and equip buildings at the former Robert Owen Academy in Blackfriars Street for students learning practical engineering skills. 

NMiTE is aiming to address the shortage of skilled graduate engineers in the Marches and British businesses across the advanced manufacturing, agri-engineering, data, defence, resources security, and sustainable/smart living technology sectors.

The LEP, which is led by the private sector working with local authority partners including Herefordshire Council, says the funding will see buildings improved, adapted and equipped to provide 3,205 square metres of teaching and learning space.

Mandy Thorn MBE, Chair of the Marches LEP, said: “This £2.34m is the first tranche of a wider funding package secured via the Government’s Local Growth Fund by the Marches LEP. Once transformed, the building is expected to see 250 learners come through the doors while creating 37 jobs and supporting 75 companies by 2023. This investment in skills in our region is vital and we’re very pleased the project is under way.” 

Minister for Local Growth, the Rt Hon Jake Berry MP, said:

“We are committed to boosting economic growth across the Midlands Engine and levelling up regions throughout the UK as we prepare to leave the EU on 31 October.

“This is a fantastic project with a truly innovative approach to training the next generation of engineers. Thanks to £2.34 million from the Government’s Local Growth Fund, NMiTE is bringing further education and private sector business together to meet a challenge – we need more engineers and we need them to have the right skills to meet employer demands.”

This funding deal will also see more than £3m invested by the private sector, boosting the local economy by more than £6m.

Professor Elena Rodriguez-Falcon, President and Chief Executive of NMiTE, said: “We are delighted to have reached this important point in our progress.

“Our academic staff have been extremely busy designing and creating NMiTE’s MEng programme with the help of our design cohort and launching new CPD programmes which will embed the concept of lifelong learning, adding local value to industry, community and economy.

“Now we have access to our first building, our vision and ambition to create the first engineering university for and of the future will start to physically emerge for all to see.”

The reaching and learning facility will include studios and workshops for students to learn practical engineering skills.