New centre means skills are not lost to local area
A ceremony has been held to mark the official opening of a new �1.2 million training centre in Fakenham which will meet a rising demand for engineering diplomas.
The 7,000sq ft building has two floors, two large engineering workshops, a 25-seat IT suite, two classrooms and a kitchen and rest areas.
It is being run by the Rural Norfolk Federation of Secondary Schools, made up of schools from Fakenham, Litcham, Reepham and Wells.
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb performed the official opening on Friday and a host of special guests attended, including Norfolk County Council chairman Tony Tomkinson, rector of Fakenham Parish Church rev Adrian Bell, county, district and town councillors and heads of the RNF schools.
Mr Lamb said: 'This is a fantastic facility that we now have here in Fakenham and hopefully this is just the start and we can find other opportunities to create more facilities like this in this part of rural Norfolk.
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'For too long in the recent past vocational training has sadly overlooked and I believe there has been too much focus on university. University crucial for some people and to ensure that we can compete in the global economy but too many students are leaving school with no qualifications and feeling under valued. 'Today I have spoken to a young lad and some of his mates and his tutor told me that he has so much potential apprenticeship would be the ideal for him. This new centre will give lads like this opportunities to fulfil their potential.'
The centre, on the George Edwards Road industrial estate is for vocational training, adult education and community use.
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It is a major addition to a small training unit at the industrial estate and will fill the void left by the loss of Fakenham Learning Centre, on Norwich Street, in 2007.
Funding has been provided by central government, the East of England Development Agency, Norfolk County Council and local high schools.
Acting head of Fakenham High School Andy Williams said: 'We have needed a facility like this in this area for a long time.
'It is regenerating this empty part of Fakenham and should help the town grow because less young people will have to leave the town to train in Norwich and King's Lynn and the skills can stay here.'
The building was once used as a furniture factory and is owned by businessman Rex Whittle, who lives in Hong Kong.
His brother-in-law Brian Cushing attended Friday's ceremony.
He said: 'I've been in regular contact with Rex about the work being done here and I have sent him photographs.
'A great amount of work has been done to get it in such excellent condition and Andy Williams in particular deserves a lot of praise. Rex has supported this all of the way and is absolutely delighted.