Strabane being 'short changed' in Further Education provision and investment -Mc Gill
Sinn Féin West Tyrone MLA Claire Mc Gill says that Strabane is being short changed in Further Education investment and provision and as part of the continuing lobby to have the situation addressed she will be accompanying Pat Doherty MP to a meeting with Department for Employment & Learning (DEL) Permanent Secretary Aideen Mc Ginley next Tuesday.
The local MLA, who is also a member of the Assembly's Employment & Learning Committee said,
"It has long been acknowledged that Strabane Technical College on the Derry Road which has acted as the central location for the delivery of Further Education courses in the District sine the 1950s is in need of major capital investment so as to make it 'fit for purpose' especially in terms of providing modern workshop facilities.
"Given the inadequate facilities in Strabane compared to the state of the art FE facilities in our neighbouring towns of Derry, Omagh and Limivady and given the promises from DEL following the closure of Adria and Herdman's that additional resources would be made available to improve FE provision and associated facilities in Strabane, it would have been expected that major capital investment in Strabane would have been a priority.
"However, as it stands at the moment there is no capital investment earmarked for Strabane in DEL's Corporate Plan up until 2011. This is despite the fact that the Economic Appraisal commissioned by the then North West Institute and which concluded that the option of a new build on the existing site was economically the best one possible has been with DEL for consideration and earmarking of necessary Funds since June 2006.
"The continuing failure to deliver 'fit for purpose' FE facilities for Strabane is undoubtedly linked to the under provision of FE Courses in the District. For example, in response to a written question to the Minister I have learned that at the Strabane campus of the North West Regional College, there were only had 3 full time Further Education courses on offer in 2007/08 compared to 152 in Derry campus and 52 in Limavady.
"As a result of the non-provision of most FE courses locally, the majority of local students are being forced to attend other FE Colleges particularly in Derry and Omagh. A vibrant FE sector is recognised as an essential element in economic development and regeneration and it is imperative that Strabane has both the facilities and courses available tailored to meet the needs of the local economy. For example, we need to see a situation whereby a wide range of FE courses relating to the construction and retail industries are delivered in Strabane as well niche or specialized courses not available elsewhere.
"Strabane District is being considerably short changed in terms of Further Education investment and provision and I will be accompanying the local MP Pat Doherty to a meeting with DEL Permanent Secretary next Tuesday as part of a continuing lobby to have the situation addressed. ENDS
ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND INFO:
Strabane Technical College was built around 1950
It later merged with North West Institute and following the Institute's merger with limavady college in August in August 2007, is now a campus of the North West Regional College (NWRC)
Following the closure of Adria/Herdsmans some years ago and following local political pressure DEL requested the NWI to submit a financial appraisal of the options for improving Further education provision and associated facilities in Strabane.
An Economic Appraisal was commissioned by NWI and completed in June 2006 by consultants KPMG in accordance with the Treasury 'Green Book' methodology. Their report was then submitted to DEL for consideration and earmarking of the necessary capital funds.
The KPMG appraisal looked at various options but concluded that the option of a new build on the existing site was economically the best one possible.
The new Governing Body of the NWRC held its February meeting at the Strabane campus on 5 February 2008 and following a tour of the facilities agreed that the new build option should be pursued immediately.
They contrasted the excellent FE Facilities at Limavady, which has a similar
Council District Population, with that of Strabane.
At a meeting between NWRC and DEL in February the issue of a new build at the Strabane campus was raised.
DEL then requested that a full review of the total NWRC Estate be concluded
prior to progressing new build plans.
The review has commenced but the NWRC Governing Body is seeking to progress a new build at Strabane in parallel with this.
The Chair of the Governing Body wrote to the Minister Reg Empy, also in February requesting that the necessary funding be reserved but it has not featured in the Corporate Plan for capital Investment up until 2011.