The decision by DCC to go ahead with the investment to buy the Flybe Training Academy and turn it into a high-tech skills site was made at last Wednesday’s cabinet meeting in a private session following the exclusion of the press and public.
(Owl thought all strategic decisions of this sort were planned, made and funded by Heart of the South West (HotSW) our Local Enterprise Partnership and proto-devolution body. Owl has heard very little about HotSW recently. Surely this should be part of HotSW productivity strategy. )
The vacant former Flybe Training Academy at Exeter Airport has been bought by Devon County Council.
The deal, confirmed on Thursday morning, will see Exeter College on behalf of the council run a new academy to offer training for high-tech jobs in engineering, digital, construction and clean growth
Devon County Council is investing almost £4 million into the project and the decision to go ahead with the investment was made at last Wednesday’s cabinet meeting in a private session following the exclusion of the press and public.
The Academy has been vacant since Flybe went into administration at the start of March.
Cllr John Hart, leader of Devon County Council said: “We must all continue to be extremely vigilant and maintain the restrictions which have seen our region emerge as the area which has been least affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
“But as lockdown is gradually eased, we must plan for the future and do all we can to protect and improve our economy.
“Creating and retaining a highly skilled workforce underpins the economic prosperity of Devon and will be a key part of our economic recovery plan after COVD-19.”
The new academy for future skills will be created to offer training for high-tech jobs in engineering, digital, construction and clean growth. It will offer inspirational opportunities for the region’s young people, while also offering adults the chance to upskill or retrain into a chosen career.
Devon’s Cabinet member for economy and skills, Cllr Rufus Gilbert, added: “High-tech skills for engineering and digital are vital to our economy.
“Engineering and its aligned professions account for around seven or eight per cent of Devon’s workforce but provide around 20 per cent of our output.
“Some two per cent of Devon’s engineers retire each year and there are key gaps in the engineering sector. So ensuring a steady supply of experienced engineering professionals is a key element of our long-term growth plans.
“They will be an important part of our plans to reset our economy for a future skills agenda taking in high-tech engineering, digital and data, advanced manufacturing, sustainable construction and clean growth and energy.
“And depending on how the aviation industry recovers from the pandemic, we are also well placed to provide training for careers in aerospace as well.
“Our young people are our future. This is an excellent plan and we are doing it for them.
“It will support the creation and retention of local talent, provide rewarding careers for our young people and support innovation across the business sector.”
John Laramy, Principal and Chief Executive of Exeter College said: “We are delighted to be able to support this ground-breaking partnership with Devon County Council.
“This new academy will not just provide future skills for a more sustainable Devon, it will also support us to develop skills in digital and data technologies, including building on our excellent track record of working with artificial intelligence and supporting new sectors such as robotic agriculture.
“This will ensure our community have the very best in education and training, and our position as a provider of education and training using cutting-edge technologies continues.
“We have had a long standing relationship with the training academy and see this collaboration to have significant benefit for the region in ensuring Devon retains a highly skilled, local workforce that continues to thrive in challenging economic times.”
Local county councillor Sara Randall-Johnson said: “It is vitally important that we maintain this training facility especially for the growing town of Cranbrook which has a young population.”
The news has been welcomed by the leader of opposition groups on Devon County Council, will Cllr Rob Hannaford, leader of the Labour group, saying: “I am 100 per cent behind this. The loss of this skills and training hub now would have been devastating.
“We want our young people to have high-skilled, well-paid jobs and be the bedrock of our economy.”
Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Alan Connett added: “This is a unique opportunity to acquire the former Flybe Academy and I support the county council’s plan to purchase it and enable Exeter College to expand its range of courses at the facility.
“It is important that we invest in the educational development of our young people, especially so given the current situation but also for the long-term prosperity of our county and wider region.”