The first phase of a 10-year project to develop and improve agrifood education and training facilities at Plumpton College in East Sussex is to receive almost £3million of Local Growth Fund support via the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP).
Being developed with the aim of helping secure better AgriFood productivity and efficiency post-Brexit, the first phase of the scheme is to receive £2.9m of Local Growth Fund towards a £7m development.
It will see the construction of a two-storey centre of excellence in knowledge transfer and business improvement alongside developments in farm animal production technologies, and butchery and bakery provision.
Also included will be improved road and pedestrian access and the development of a village green to create an outdoor social and learning area.
At its June meeting, SELEP’s Accountability Board heard the college works with 2,000 businesses and educates around 3,500 students a year, but faces a number of challenges.
Its current facilities are at capacity or require some updating, preventing it from responding to rising demand for new higher-level skills in AgriFood technological innovation and development. Research and innovation on site is hampered by a lack of conferencing and knowledge exchange areas.
Christian Brodie, Chair of SELEP, which is responsible for driving and supporting economic growth in East Sussex, Essex, Kent, Medway, Southend and Thurrock, said: “Improving skills in key economic sectors is a major part of our work and is the subject of the Skills Strategy we launched this year.
“Agriculture and AgriFood are important sectors in the rural South East.
“Post-Brexit, productivity and efficiency in those areas will rely on a better supply of more highly trained, educated and entrepreneurial entrants to the industry along with continual updating of the workforce.
“There are currently 150,000 vacancies in the South East in land-based technical roles and the capacity to meet that demand for skills is not available anywhere else in the region, which is why it is important that we provide this support for Plumpton College.”
A spokesman for Plumpton College said: “The college welcomes that East Sussex County Council and SELEP recognise the importance of securing this much needed investment.
“The facilities will substantially strengthen the college’s training and education in agrifood and support knowledge transfer to the rural businesses operating in the agrifood sector.”