Plans to build a £7 million Scottish Marine Industry Training Centre in Oban would attract 80 full time students and hundreds more part-time.
The centre, to be part of Argyll College, is a major step in helping Oban to become a university town, a meeting of Argyll and Bute Council will hear tomorrow.
It would be based at the European Marine Science Park at Dunstaffnage, next to the Scottish Association for Marine Science (Sams).
An update on Oban’s journey to becoming a university town is due to be given to the Oban Lorn and the Isles area committee.
Marine education is one of the town’s main areas of strength, the committee will hear.
Sams has an international reputation as a centre of excellence, while more than 100 marine businesses operate within a 20-mile radius of Oban.
In a report to the committee, executive director with the responsibility for development and economic growth, Pippa Milne, writes: “These businesses have specific skill requirements if they are to continue to prosper which has demonstrated a need for the development of new facilities and courses.”
The council has already provided £105,040 to develop the curriculum offer of Argyll College over the next two years, delivered through the new training centre. This money will be used to prepare a business case and fund a project director.
Ms Milne continues: “A key outcome of this is to add circa 80 full-time and 440 part-time student within six years. These students will be primarily hosted in a new purpose built Scottish Marine Industry Training Centre (SMITC) located in the European Marine Science Park.
“Funding for the capital works associated with the SMITC is subject to a successful Rural Growth Deal (RGD) bid and is critical to making a step change in the number of students undertaking courses in Oban many of whom will come from other parts of Argyll and Bute and beyond.
“The Rural Growth Deal also has a major skills ask associated with it including STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, rural entrepreneurship and improving academic accommodation for Argyll College. All relevant to Oban as a University Town.”
Last night a council spokesman said: “If capital funding is not secured through the RGD, partners are committed to the project and consideration will be given by partners and the project director to alternative options for funding delivery. The £105,040 will be the extent of Argyll and Bute Council funding.”
It is hoped that the initial development of infrastructure within the science park will begin in September next year. Construction will begin in September 2021, subject to funding being in place.
The university town project is being progressed by a steering group which includes the council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Argyll College UHI, UHI, the Scottish Association for Marine Science and Bid4Oban.