You’ll get your college when I get the money.
They may not have been his exact words, but that’s what Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry has promised Armagh as the wait goes on for a new £30 million Southern Regional College campus in the city.
MLA Cathal Boylan posed the question of the Minister as he wanted clarification on the future of a new build in the city.
With the Minister giving assurances that “good work” had been done, it is noted that at this stage, the Department are currently looking to contract for the design issues.
Mr Boylan welcomed the assurances that the three campus plans are moving ahead and shall remain a “priority for the Department”.
Despite woes of finance being identified for future capital builds, the Minister confirmed that work has been undertaken to ensure his Department can proceed as quickly as possible when money becomes available.
Pressing the importance of the building, Mr Boylan said “This development will transform the Further Education infrastructure in Armagh.
“Trades and skills are the foundations of our economy and the SRC are leaders in professional and technical education and training. This new building will provide the wider locality with modern first class facilities and I will be making sure the Minister keeps it as a priority.”
Upon further questioning from the Armagh representative, the Minister recognised the proactive role SRC has played in working with local businesses, in accountancy apprenticeships, ICT and engineering within the constituency.
Mr Farry added: “It (SRC) has been very proactive in working with local businesses, and I highlight the work that it has done with Norbrook in Newry, which clearly has requirements for lab technicians. That was pioneering work on higher-level apprenticeships in the life sciences. It has also been very proactive on accountancy apprenticeships, as well as in ICT and engineering. Those are the things that are happening across the board in some of our other colleges.
Highlighting the need for making apprenticeship schemes more easily accessible Boylan stated: “Apprenticeships, as a way of helping young people gain essential skills and assisting in securing employment, are of paramount importance for the future of our economy and the work of the colleges must be prioritised if we are to take full advantage of the opportunities that will arise from a growing economy in a more stable Ireland. However all agencies have a responsibility to ensure an increase in numbers of people taking them up or seeing apprenticeships as a viable career choice.”
The MLA confirmed he will be writing to DEL Minister to get further information on the new campus design issues and to seek assurances the role of colleges is prioritised in the new Department of the Economy.