College of West Anglia joins multi-million technology bid

College of West Anglia, King's Lynn
College of West Anglia, King's Lynn

College bosses in Lynn have joined a multi-million bid to establish a new regional Institute of Technology (IoT) for East Anglia.

The College of West Anglia (CWA) has teamed up with other further education providers and sixth form centres in the region to seek a share of £170 million of government funding for up to 10 such institutions across the country.

Officials say the bid, if successful, would create a “virtual learning city” to improve skills in the region’s advanced manufacturing, engineering, energy and digital sectors.

CWA principal David Pomfret said: “The IoT would build upon the existing infrastructure and investment in colleges by providing specialist equipment to meet industry’s growing technical skills needs.

“The sectors identified are priority sectors in the Norfolk & Suffolk Economic Strategy, recently approved by the New Anglia LEP Board.

“The IoT proposal is aligned to the government’s Industrial Strategy and the potential to increase productivity is fully recognised by the LEP.”

Over the last five years, CWA has spent £13 million on new technology centres on its campuses in Lynn and Wisbech.

Earlier this year, it was rated outstanding by Ofsted for the standard of its apprenticeship provision.

Mr Pomfret has also been invited to represent colleges on the New Anglia LEP’s advanced manufacturing and engineering board.

The bid is being led by West Suffolk College, whose principal, Nikos Savvas, said: “We want everyone to work together because it’s a competitive process.

“It is for the region as a whole. We don’t want the money to end up in the usual places – Manchester, London, Birmingham.

“We have so many national and international businesses in the region that deserve our support – if we don’t support them they will go somewhere else.”

He said he didn’t want the region’s colleges competing against each other because together they can bid against far bigger city colleges, with the region’s MPs and businesses backing them.

He added: “If we work with other colleges you’ve not only got people behind you, it would also benefit all communities.

“Why not create a centre of excellence in every town?”

Officials say that will allow colleges to specialise in certain areas, perhaps those required by nearby businesses.