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By YouPR | Tuesday, July 09, 2013, 15:50

Weston College Principal and Chief Executive, Dr Paul Phillips OBE, swapped his desk for an eight-tonne excavator to mark the second phase of £11 million building works.

Also celebrating on Thursday (July 4th) at the South West Skills Campus (SWSC) site, Locking Road, was North Somerset Chief Executive, Graham Turner and Midas Construction's Executive Director, Derek Quinn.

Dr Phillips said: "Once this phase is complete we will have created the best engineering and construction environment in the UK.

"Weston College has been voted the best in the West for the second year running in Skills Funding Agency Poll.

"We have exceptional results in A levels, Higher Education and vocational qualifications. With 1,200 apprentices, we are the largest provider in the region from Gloucestershire to Cornwall.

"Despite the economic downturn we continue to invest heavily in buildings to meet the needs of 21st century students, offering them the best resources in the South West."

The £11 million investment will see SWSC transformed into a hi-tech learning environment.

South West-based Midas will develop the front of the SWSC creating classrooms, open teaching space, café and reception area, with more classrooms on the first floor, to be ready for September 2014.

Midas Executive Director Derek Quinn said: "We're delighted to be working in collaboration with Weston College to deliver this exciting project, which is set to significantly transform the College.

"This project is a great example of how a number of partners can work together to deliver a cost effective and high quality learning environment.

"We have taken on Weston College employees and apprentices and will continue to do so as we're very proud to be part of this project."

One of the new construction workers, Karl James, 44, of Macleod Close, Clevedon, was unemployed for a year until he went on the College's ASPIRE course for long-term unemployed.

The father-of-four said: "I studied for my health and safety card at Weston College and then signed up for the ASPIRE course. Now I'm with Midas and it's great to be working."

The campus already houses the College's Business Enterprise Centre (BEC) and the Construction and Engineering Centre of Excellence (CECE).

BEC's new home is now complete, with classrooms, office space, training facilities and hi-tech bespoke space for the College's business partners.

The ground floor has a new reception area, bistro-style canteen, 'LibraryPlus' facility, student support and IT facilities.

That work was carried out by construction firm Bray & Slaughter at a cost of £3.3 million, a third of which has been provided by the Skills Funding Agency.

BEC's former home in the nearby old Renault showroom is now space to a state-of-the-art motor vehicle workshop for the next generation of motor mechanics and technicians.

It is set to open this summer with classrooms and IT facilities. In response demand for places has increased by 100 per cent.

North Somerset Council's Chief Executive, Graham Turner, added: "Weston College is leading the way across the West of England. It is an innovative force, helping lead the region out of recession.

Other developments around Weston College include plans to create an eco-house at the rear of SWSC, which can show students practical examples of green technology in action.

At the College's University Campus, six new classrooms are planned, subject to planning permission, to accommodate growing number of Creative Arts and Design students.

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