A NEW £4m manufacturing facility designed to help train Barrow's future workforce has been unveiled.

Furness College proudly launched its state-of-the-art Advanced Manufacturing and Technology Centre this morning, welcoming hundreds of guests from some of the leading companies in the area.

The new facility, which took a year to construct, features cutting-edge equipment which is used by some of Cumbria's biggest employers and is set to transform learning for students and apprentices in the area.

Read more about Furness College's new Advanced Manufacturing and Technology Centre

Andrew Wren, principal and chief executive of Furness College, was delighted to unveil the centre.

He said: "This is a first for Cumbria if not the north of England and we're really looking forward to training up the future workforce and training people to learn the skills that you (employers) are going to need in the future.

"This is just a starting point but year on year it will develop to make sure that all our equipment is right on the cutting edge."

The centre was mainly funded by the college itself but also received £1.43m through the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership and £750,000 from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

George Beveridge, chairman of Cumbria LEP, said this new facility is key in enabling the college to meet the needs of employers across Cumbria.

He said: “It will focus on science, technology, engineering and maths related subjects and skills, with a key emphasis on ensuring that the county can fill the many thousands of projected new jobs coming on stream here with fully qualified candidates.

“Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership and partners such as Furness College will continue to help accelerate economic growth in the county by ensuring that its workforce has the skills to meet future employer needs. This new centre will certainly help us do that.”

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The facility has classroom space for up to 450 higher education students and 1,150 apprentices, who can make use of some of the newest and most high-tech piece of equipment used in the industry.

Siemens apprentice Stephanie Hargreaves, 20, is about to begin her degree in mechanical engineering and believes this new centre will give her a real boost.

She said: "It's really going to benefit me because I work in the design office so being able to understand the kit will help me make my work smoother and more efficient."

Adam Hunter, 21, is about to embark on his bachelor of engineering degree in electrical engineering and is delighted to be able to make use of the centre.

He said: "It's a bit of an honour really. There aren't many colleges in the country that have facilities and equipment like this.

"I'm very excited and it's going to have a massive impact on the local engineering scene."

What do the employers think?

Ted Creighton, head of UK early careers and skills at BAE Systems, believes this new facility is a vital step in training the future workforce of the area.

He said: "BAE Systems really welcomes the investment the college has made to the higher level apprentices of the future.

"The fact that they can witness and stand in front of these pieces of kit is really helpful for us because it really reinforces their learning.

"It means they can be job ready for when they come into the workplace."

Shaun Hannaway, learning development adviser at Siemens Subsea, agreed with Mr Creighton and said: "It features more up-to-date equipment which is more in line with what we've got.

"The whole layout fits in with what we have - being open plan and the equipment is much more like the advanced manufacturing equipment we've been using for a few years."

Jayne Moorby, marketing manager at Oxley Group, said it's a fantastic resource.

She said: "Local businesses, like Oxley, need a skilled workforce and this facility will enable us to train the next generation of engineers to take advantage of the huge opportunity both in the area and further afield in the coming years."