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College principal Matt Atkinson (above) and on the proposed site of the new construction skills centre (top)

UK: Bath College, a key UK provider of refrigeration and air conditioning apprenticeships, is planning to build a £3.3m construction skills centre at its Somer Valley Campus in Radstock.

Bath College has received funding for the new construction skills centre from the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

The plans for a two-storey building housing 500 students mark a significant investment in the area following the merger between Bath College and Norton Radstock College in April 2015.

A planning application will be submitted after public consultations taking place today.

Bath College Principal Matt Atkinson said: “We’re creating a centre of excellence for the West of England to make sure there are enough skilled people for a number of significant building projects scheduled to take place over the next ten years.

“The plan is to reinvigorate this campus, to give students more space than they have currently and to bring all the trades under one roof.

“The construction skills centre will be a talent pool for local employers to come and find their future workforce.

“It will contribute to the growth of apprenticeships and the government’s target to grow apprenticeships by three million.”

In addition to refrigeration and air conditioning, the centre will also cater for students studying bricklaying, stonemasonry, carpentry, plumbing and electrical installation.

Courses are currently run at Bath College’s Construction Skills Centre, on Westmoreland Station Road, and its city centre campus. These are expected to be moved over to Somer Valley by September 2017.

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Tony Mills of Space Engineering shows Bath students around the company’s plant

Local visits

As part of their education, students at Bath College recently had the chance to visit two major South West companies to see how refrigeration engineering is used in industry.

Refrigeration VRQ2 students took a trip to Space Engineering’s manufacturing facility in Pucklechurch, South Gloucestershire and also visited Tesco’s distribution centre in Avonmouth with Star Refrigeration.

At Space Engineering, students met director Tony Mills, who showed them round the plant, including the design area and new product innovations. He guided the group through the process of designing, manufacturing, building and selling refrigeration systems.

At Tesco’s distribution centre, students were surprised by the scale of the fridge area, used to store perishable food.

Refrigeration lecturer Simon Robinson said: “I think the students were overwhelmed by the size of plant. What they build at the college follows the same principle, but this is on an industrial scale.

“The visit to Space Engineering showed them the detail you can go into designing refrigeration systems and why you want to design things to become cost effective and environmentally friendly.”