Funding to build a new £33 million college base to drive a generation of aviation and engineering jobs in Moray has been confirmed as the first part of the region’s growth deal.
The new Moray College UHI campus will be built near RAF Lossiemouth, with staff expected to work with the military and private contractors.
The announcement comes amid the expansion of the base with the new fleet of Poseidon submarine hunters due to arrive at their permanent home later this year.
It is hoped that the campus will confirm Moray’s place as a global “aerospace centre for excellence” while also attracting more businesses to the area.
No timeframe has been confirmed for the opening, which is expected to create “hundreds” of new student places in the region.
Scotland Office minister Iain Stewart confirmed the funding following a tour of the military base yesterday.
He said: “Since the Moray deal was announced we have been working to make progress, and I am delighted to confirm the UK Government will invest £21m in this college hub which will help the region prosper from its aerospace sector.
“There is a significant way to go to get our economy back on track after the coronavirus pandemic, but we know that the city and region growth deals will be crucial to Scotland’s economic recovery.”
The remaining £12.3m for the new college campus is expected to be funded by local organisations.
Both the UK and Scottish governments have already committed to funding £32.5m each towards the ambitious growth deal vision for Moray.
It is expected that further projects included in the package will be confirmed in the coming weeks ahead of business plans being worked up for each of them.
David Patterson, principal of Moray College UHI, said: “We are delighted to have UK Government support for our proposed new aerospace centre which will focus on training, innovation and research development to support aerospace and other manufacturing enterprises in the region.
“It will develop advanced engineering skills in Moray’s workforce, with particular specialisms in aviation and aerospace.
“Collaboration between education, commercial and public sectors will be key to the project’s success and we look forward to working with partners over the next couple of years to make this project a reality.”
Attracting and retaining jobs in Moray was identified as one of the key aims of the growth deal from the origins of the bid.
Concerns have been raised about the region’s low-wage economy and the brain drain of talented youngsters away from the area for several years.
New campuses for Moray College UHI were proposed in 2018 as part of any future funding package amid concerns the existing facilities were now at capacity while student places had increased.
It is hoped that expanded education opportunities will encourage local youngsters to remain in the region to study ahead of moving elsewhere while also attracting others to move to the area.
A creative campus for Moray College UHI as part of a “cultural quarter” in Elgin encompassing the Town Hall, Cooper Park and Grant Lodge has also been proposed as part of the growth deal.
However, no announcement has been made on that package with backing for other individual projects expected to be confirmed in the coming weeks.
Other proposals that have been put forward to the UK and Scottish governments for possible support include a new gas pipeline to help the region’s distillers expand as well as a manufacturing and innovation centre.