Coleg Cambria and Bangor University joined forces at a launch attended by Education Minister Jeremy Miles (right)

Two leading education institutions have joined forces to target recovery and growth in sectors hard-hit by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Coleg Cambria and Bangor University will be working closely to develop new strategic pathways and support employers as they build back after a challenging period for all industries.

Cambria’s Chief Executive Yana Williams and Vice Chancellor of Bangor University, Professor Iwan Davies, announced the partnership at the formal opening of the college’s Hafod building at Yale in Wrexham today (Wednesday), where they were joined by Jeremy Miles MS, Minister for Education and Welsh Language.

The £21m development was completed by Bodelwyddan-based Wynne Construction earlier this year, supported by the Welsh Government’s 21st Century Schools Programme.

The Minister said: “I was really pleased to open the new Hafod building at Coleg Cambria. It’s a really impressive facility, which will be great for the students and staff.

“I’m delighted the Welsh Government could support this through our 21st Century School and Colleges programme.

“Thanks to the college for the welcome and best wishes to everyone who will be learning and working at Hafod.”

Together, Cambria and Bangor will bridge the gap between higher and further education and engage with multiple arenas on research, innovation and business engagement.

Among the collaborative projects proposed is a ‘Skills Factory’ in Deeside, with initial funding support from the HEFCW (Higher Education Funding Council for Wales) HEIR fund.

Ms Williams said they plan to further strengthen their relationship for learners and communities across North Wales and help reskill and upskill in priority areas.

“The collaboration will seek to target those most affected by Covid-19 and identify how we can work together to deliver solutions via training, industry partnerships and employers,” said Ms Williams.

“We are committed to ensuring learners across North Wales have access to agile and relevant further and higher education qualifications, and capitalising on the cutting-edge facilities we have in this region.

“We are in a challenging economic environment and both Coleg Cambria and Bangor University are determined to be at the forefront of the recovery, for our students, staff and communities.”

She added: “The Skills Factory is just one of the ways we will link with industry, addressing the challenges facing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) and the need for a highly-skilled, well-paid and inclusive workforce.

“We will also be prioritising health and social care, aerospace, construction and supporting potential for growth in sectors such as food and drink manufacturing, software engineering, data science, environment and sustainable development and nuclear and advanced manufacturing.

“As we rebound from the impact of the pandemic, we really want to reenergise and reskill for the benefit of this and future generations.”

Professor Davies said in committing to the partnership, Bangor University is reaffirming its pledge to deliver across the whole of North Wales, building pathways between the further and higher education sectors and supporting both employees and employers as they face a difficult new economic environment.

“Our approach embraces the diversity of the regional context and looks to deliver solutions that will span sectors, especially aerospace and construction, as they seek to rebound from the impacts of the pandemic, whilst also supporting the potential for growth sectors such as food and drink production manufacturing, software engineering, data science, environment and sustainable development, and nuclear and advanced manufacture,” he said.

“The Skills Factory will focus on sustainable models for delivery, embracing the Five Ways of Working set out in the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act, and will also bring to bear the excellent reputation of both organisations in sustainability and sustainable delivery.”

Ms Williams and Professor Davies were joined at the revolutionary Hafod building – a ‘commercial village’ driven by education, hospitality and retail – by members of the college’s leadership team, Chris Wynne, Managing Director of Wynne Construction, and the Minister.

Mr Wynne is “incredibly proud” of their project team for delivering the prestigious building, adding: “They navigated many challenges presented by COVID-19 while working on a live site as well as sharing the campus with students and staff. Our number one priority was to ensure the health and wellbeing of everyone involved in the project and to produce a high-quality finish, which we achieved.

“Despite Covid-19, we achieved a 63% spend towards Welsh-based SMEs, six work experience placements, 360 training weeks for apprenticeships, and over 2,000 pupil interactions during the build.

“In addition, we were pleased to be working within Wrexham again and to continue with building a legacy and future for the construction industry.”