A new university complex in the heart of Lynn can transform lives for generations to come, according to students and education leaders.
A turf-cutting ceremony formally launched the £6.5 million project at the College of West Anglia’s Lynn campus on Tuesday afternoon.
And its principal, David Pomfret, said it was “hugely exciting” to unveil the scheme, which aims to provide degree courses for hundreds more students and address West Norfolk’s skills gap.
He said: “We know that learning pays. Learning pays for the individual in terms of lifetime earnings potential.
“But, more importantly than that, learning pays in terms of the contribution to the skills needs of local businesses and the wider business growth potential of the West Norfolk economy.”
Several of the college’s current degree students, many of whom will have completed their studies by the time the centre opens next autumn, were also at the ceremony.
And one of them, Katy Williams, who combines part-time study for a degree in business management with looking after her five-year-old twin sons, was in no doubt about the potential benefits for future generations.
She said: “I’m really excited about it. It’s really good for the college and the whole community.
“I want my sons to get degrees but the fees are so expensive now that having this here on our doorstep will mean they can live at home and I can bear the cost of them being here.
“It will benefit the rest of their lives.”
The project, which is expected to be completed by September next year, will take the total invested in improving facilities across the college’s three sites to more than £50 million in the last five years.
It is being funded by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), as part of the £60 million growth fund it was awarded by the government last year.
LEP chairman Mark Pendlington said the day was about celebrating the area’s aspirations.
He said: “I know this has been a twinkle in many people’s eyes for too many years.
“We have a lot of pride in supporting your fantastic work. That support will carry on as you turn this college into the ambitious, fantastic place of learning that it needs to be to suit employers and create growth and opportunities for people of all talents across the region.”
Mr Pomfret also praised the LEP, the college’s higher education partner, Anglia Ruskin University, the West Norfolk Partnership and the college’s own team for their work on the project.
The college already works with Anglia Ruskin to provide a number of higher education programmes.
And initial figures from the National Student Survey have shown an 86 per cent satisfaction rate with the college’s degree courses, only four points below that recorded at Cambridge University.
During the ceremony, Mr Pomfret revealed staff are already working on a number of new courses which will be provided from the new centre.
The courses are expected to cover a range of areas including business, management, scientific, technical and engineering skills and are likely to benefit hundreds of students every year.
He said: “The quality is in place. Our commitment is in place. What’s been missing has been a catalyst that raises aspirations and significantly develop and enhance the suite of programmes on offer.
“We’re absolutely confident that it will enable us to shape and develop a suite of programmes that are responsive to employer needs.”
Mr Pendlington added: “A skilled dynamic workforce is crucial if we are to compete on a UK and global stage and become the economic powerhouse we know we can be.
“This centre means hundreds of youngsters across the region will be trained in vital subjects such as science, technology and engineering – skills we know businesses in Norfolk are crying out for.”