New East Coast College must help disadvantaged students as well as addressing skills gap

Launch event for the formation of East Coast College, following the merger of Gt Yarmouth and Lowest

Launch event for the formation of East Coast College, following the merger of Gt Yarmouth and Lowestoft colleges. PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

A new educational federation should focus on training more young workers to support growing sectors in the east while providing educational opportunities for disadvantaged students, one of its main supporters has said.

Launch event for the formation of East Coast College, following the merger of Gt Yarmouth and Lowest

Launch event for the formation of East Coast College, following the merger of Gt Yarmouth and Lowestoft colleges. Stuart Rimmer and Mark Pendlington discuss the future of the college. PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

East Coast College – formed with the merger of Great Yarmouth College and Lowestoft College – will educate more than 7,000 students on vocational courses across its two campuses from September.

And one of its key sponsors, the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), has announced it will be ploughing £10m into a new energy skills centre to train the next generation of offshore and oil and gas industry workers in the region.

The announcement was made at a launch event for the new federation at the Great Yarmouth campus on Wednesday by LEP chairman Mark Pendlington, who said East Anglia was 'one of the most exciting world capitals of all energy'.

'This is an ambitious region and community. We have got 60,000 businesses across the East of England and all of them are crying out for talent,' he said.

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'We want to take this region's worth from £35bn to £48bn in the next five to six years and it would be impossible without colleges like this being a magnet for young people.'

He added: 'This college will help to make us a leader in energy, but it is also for the community. There are still some pockets of extreme poverty in this area. We are all working together to see how we can turn that around so there are opportunities for all.'

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East Coast College – which will turn over £25m annually – will educate 1,500 apprentices working with around 800 employers, more than 2,000 16 to 18-year-olds, and 3,000-4,000 learners aged 19 or over or in higher education.

Commercial director Ian Pease said the college would have a 'compelling course offer' for subjects such as engineering, construction and social care.

He said: 'We are working closely with the offshore wind sector and are talking to local companies in Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth.'

He added: 'We have worked together as part of the University Campus Suffolk for a number of years so we already have a strong partnership. The important thing for us is to have that link from entry level to the highest level.'

Stuart Rimmer, chief executive and principal of East Coast College, said: 'Bringing to life a new college is an exciting but daunting prospect.

'Everyone who comes to us will be able to find an appropriate course with us to develop the skills they need to move on, and they will be guaranteed a progression, because education is only a stepping stone.'

He added: 'It is about adding economic value locally but also helping people to improve their wellbeing in their communities.'

With the merger, the vocational colleges hope to improve the offering of non-academic training and apprenticeships in the county to improve opportunities for young people, adult learners and businesses.

It will also continue to offer higher education and degree courses through University Campus Suffolk across both campuses, on which more than 200 students are already enrolled.

Head of higher education Kerry Payne said the college hopes to add another three degree courses to its curriculum in the next year.

Plans to merge the colleges were unveiled alongside a consultation in January last year. Lowestoft Sixth Form College was also part of the initial proposals to form a three-campus institution, but dropped out of the merger in last May to pursue a partnership with East Norfolk Sixth Form College in Gorleston.

Results of a public consultation released last April showed wide support for the merger, but also raised concerns about transport costs and infrastructure around the sites in Suffolk Road, Great Yarmouth and St Peter's Street, Lowestoft.

But Mr Rimmer said the colleges would spend just under £200,000 a year on transport support, and the curriculum had been designed to cause 'minimum disruption' to students.

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