On the 12th September, the long-awaited new Ashford College campus opened its doors to its first intake of students. Adjoining the Memorial Gardens and just a stone’s throw from Ashford International and the town centre, the college, with its distinctive chromatic atrium, is the first of Ashford Borough Council’s ‘Big 8’ projects to reach completion. The 7,135m² campus, opposite the developing Ashford Commercial Quarter, accommodates over 1000 students and over 100 staff. It is being constructed in two phases: The completed Phase 1 – a 4,715m² teaching facility housing the general academic, vocational and creative departments and administrative facilities, whilst Phase 1a will include a 2,391m² sustainable technologies block, providing engineering, plumbing, electrical facilities and motor sport workshops. Phase 2 is set to include facilities for Higher Education students.
To celebrate its opening, the college staged an exclusive secret gig by singer-songwriter and BBC 'Sound of 2017' artist, Tom Grennan. The gig, organised by the KMFM team, went down a storm with the students, who were treated to tracks from Tom's upcoming album, Lighting Matches.
A week prior to its opening, the College had welcomed the Rt Hon Damian Green MP, First Secretary of State and Conservative MP for Ashford, to tour the state-of-the-art £26 million building. Mr. Green visited the new campus with Jo James, Chief Executive of the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce. They viewed the modern teaching facilities, including a multi-media learning resource centre, live music production, photography and fine art studios, teaching kitchens and a hair and beauty salon. The tour culminated in a visit to the roof to see the solar panels which provide power to the building. The college has been designed to meet high standards in sustainability, achieving a BREEAM ‘Very Good’ rating, with energy efficiency and the reduction of carbon emissions paramount.
Mr. Green was hugely complimentary about the facilities and opportunities the college brings to young people in the area, saying:
“It's great to look round the new building and see not only the great modern facilities that are here for the extensive range of courses, but also to see how beneficial it will be for the town and community, being so well-placed right in the centre next to the railway station.
“Its location ensures it will be a beacon to show the opportunities provided in Ashford and for the people of Ashford, improving the educational offer we can give young people in the town and in other parts of Kent – since many people are already enroling here from a large part of East Kent.
“Also it presents great opportunities for local businesses, who will find here a pool of skilled people training to do the jobs of the future – people that we will need to fill vacancies as the town’s economy expands and prospers.”
Jo James added: “The design of the building is superb, very bright and airy and conducive to learning, which is one of the reasons it has seen such an uptake in local students wanting to come and study here. The courses on offer satisfy the needs of local businesses and I think the College will work closely with business community to help with local economic growth and employment. As a Chamber, we're looking forward to working with the college and making it a success for students, local businesses and the economy.”
The College, part of the Hadlow Group, harnesses strong links with over 1,500 local employers and businesses, supporting improved educational provision within the borough and enhancing the local skills base, supporting future economic growth and prosperity for residents and businesses.
Rooted in a strong business philosophy, the courses on offer – health & social care, construction crafts, electrical engineering, early years, music technology, fashion, catering & hospitality, photography, hair & beauty and motor vehicle maintenance to name a few - are designed to meet the demands of local employers. Students also gain commercial experience in the College’s on-site facilities open to the public: a hair & beauty salon and planned fine dining restaurant.
A wide variety of courses reflecting the demands of the local economy will be offered, including Apprenticeships and Higher Education programmes, as well as support for those not currently in education, employment or training.
Paul Hannan, Hadlow Group Principal and CEO, said: “The new campus will play a very significant part in ensuring our provision complies with the highest standards. It is a real opportunity for our students and future students to learn and train in excellent new facilities”.
Mark Lumsdon-Taylor, Deputy Group Principal and Deputy CEO, added: “We are delighted to be enroling our first intake of students. The college is a symbol for the significant regeneration for the town and I’d like to pay tribute to the co-operation, help, advice and support received from the council – a superb example of sectors working together effectively to fulfil a much-needed project.”