EMPLOYMENT and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry, officially opened the new £24 million Downpatrick campus of the South Eastern Regional College (SERC) on Wednesday 15th June.
Speaking at the launch, the Minister said, “This new state-of-the-art campus is further evidence of my Department’s commitment to the Further Education sector and to the young people and adults using its facilities. The FE sector plays a key role in the social and economic development of the people of East Down and Northern Ireland, a role which has been brought into sharper focus through my Department’s Success Through Skills – Transforming Futures strategy.
“This strategy has identified a series of major challenges for the future, all of which aim to provide a suitably skilled workforce to help local industry compete in an increasingly global market-place. The Downpatrick campus has a vital role to play in servicing the needs of local industry, and this investment will enhance its ability to be a key driver of economic development for many years to come. If we are aspiring to be the best, we must have the facilities to enable us to reach that level.”
The 15,243 square metre development boasts world class facilities including trade workshops; science and technology laboratories; IT suites; a fitness suite and sports hall.
Dr. Farry added, “Further Education colleges play a key part in ensuring our people have the skills they need to fulfil their potential, get into work, stay in work and contribute to our economic recovery. During this difficult economic period, people look to our colleges to learn new skills or engage in learning to help them prepare for an upturn in the economy. The new facilities will offer a stimulating environment for skills development and provide this region with real and relevant learning choices that will meet their needs, employers’ needs and the needs of the community.”
Ken Webb, Principal and Chief Executive of SERC said, “As part of the Further Education sector our role is to help recover and grow the local economy and the provision of skills is at the heart of this. We can provide the vocational courses that deliver the technical skills and knowledge which employers need and can help to drive more people towards self-employment. Emerging areas such as agri-food, sustainable development and renewable technologies, along with STEM subjects, are key economic drivers for Northern Ireland and are all skills areas supported by SERC. We are delighted with our new Downpatrick campus, which is as much a regional facility as a local one, and we plan on further developing our industry and community links to ensure that we are delivering the skills that are needed now and for the future.”
David Smith, Director of Teaching and Customer Support for SERC added, “As both a local resident and Director of SERC, I am very proud to be associated with this new campus. It is not only a world-class facility for the local community but for businesses and individuals from across Northern Ireland, and indeed we will be welcoming international students from all corners of the globe.”