Castlebar has moved a step closer this week to hosting a College of the Future. Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim Education and Training Board has been approved to press ahead with the next phase of proposal development for a state of the art further education campus in the town.
Castlebar was among 10 locations approved this week by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris to develop proposals for further education campuses.
The new College of the Future (COTF ) campus is proposed for the existing MSLETB site in Newtown comprising the Mayo College of FET campus as part of as part of a €25.9 million investment in further and higher education in Mayo. There will be a significant upgrade and expansion of the current campus with a substantial increase in full and part-time learners and apprenticeships.
MSLETB also proposes to become the leading ETB in apprenticeships in digital media and marketing, in cyber security and in immersive technologies. Blended and online learning methodologies will ensure learners from across the region can access courses in the COTF.
"The new further education campus will also function as a community resource where facilities can be used for a range of societal and cultural purposes," Minister Harris said this week.
“This College of the Future Major Projects Fund will support the implementation of the vision set out in the Further Education Strategy. This fund, and the proposed for development in Mayo has the potential to deliver on a range of strategic objectives. It is great that the proposal will now proceed to Preliminary Business Case Stage.”
Andrew Brownlee, CEO of SOLAS, added: “Today’s announcement marks an important step forward for learners and communities in the Mayo area, but also an important milestone in the evolution of FET facilities and provision nationwide.
“This College of the Future is part of a larger shift towards distinct, integrated colleges of FET around the country, which will serve as a beacons of community-based learning excellence. Mayo was one of the first to establish a single integrated college of FET brand and this is the next step on the journey.
“As we continue to deliver cutting edge campuses that showcase the very best of FET, we will start to change the hearts and minds of Irish society with regard to school-leaver and lifelong education options."
The college will build and maintain links with ATU to ensure clear pathways for students between further and higher education. It will also build on developing a new digital skills centre in Ballina, which is providing personalised learning programmes for people in the county.
“Mayo College of Further Education and Training will be a vibrant, diverse, and inclusive college hosting a wide range of further education and training opportunities," said Tom Grady, chief executive of MSLETB.
“This announcement today is a significant milestone in the development of further education within Mayo Sligo and Leitrim ETB and we look forward to development of the preliminary business case and working with all stakeholders to ensure that the envisaged college is one that is deeply embedded in the communities it will be built to serve.”
The new COTF campus will also incorporate the head office of MSLETB.
“This is a fantastic day for Castlebar and for the future of further education in this region," said Dep Michael Ring, who welcomed the announcment. "It is fabulous to see that the Mayo proposal will now proceed to business case.
“I wish to thank Minister Simon Harris for supporting our region as this new college can become a centre of excellence in further education and training.”
Dep Alan Dillon also welcomed this week's announcement, saying: “This is a brilliant day for Mayo. I wish to thank Minister Harris, who accompanied me on a visit to this college back in July last year, for his support on this project and for marking today’s announcement with his presence in Mayo.”