Council buys former Flybe Training Academy at Exeter Airport in £4million bid to create education hub for high-tech jobs

An education hub for high-tech jobs will be created at Exeter Airport after the county council agreed to buy the vacant former Flybe Training Academy.

The authority is investing £4million in the project – hailed as ‘a major step to boost Devon’s economy after lockdown’.

Exeter College will run a new ‘academy for future skills’ offering training for roles in engineering, digital, construction and clean growth.

It will offer ‘inspirational opportunities for the region’s young people, while also offering adults the chance to upskill or retrain into a chosen career’. The Flybe Training Academy closed when the airline went into administration in March.

Announcing the deal today, Devon County Council (DCC) leader John Hart said: “As lockdown is gradually eased, we must plan for the future and do all we can to protect and improve our economy.

“Creating and retaining a highly-skilled workforce underpins the economic prosperity of Devon and will be a key part of our economic recovery plan after Covid-19.”

John Laramy, principal and chief executive of Exeter College, added: “We are delighted to be able to support this ground-breaking partnership with Devon County Council.

“This new academy will not just provide future skills for a more sustainable Devon, it will also support us to develop skills in digital and data technologies, including building on our excellent track record of working with artificial intelligence and supporting new sectors such as robotic agriculture.

“We have had a long-standing relationship with the training academy and see this collaboration to have significant benefit for the region in ensuring Devon retains a highly-skilled, local workforce that continues to thrive in challenging economic times.”

Exeter College had been the chosen academic partner of the Flybe Training Academy since 2007 and delivered a range of programmes including non-aerospace work.

Cllr Rufus Gilbert, DCC cabinet member for economy and skills, added: “High-tech skills for engineering and digital are vital to our economy.

“Engineering and its aligned professions account for around seven or eight per cent of Devon’s workforce, but provide around 20 per cent of our output.

“Some two per cent of Devon’s engineers retire each year and there are key gaps in the engineering sector. So ensuring a steady supply of experienced engineering professionals is a key element of our long-term growth plans.

“They will be an important part of our plans to reset our economy for a future skills agenda taking in high-tech engineering, digital and data, advanced manufacturing, sustainable construction and clean growth and energy.

“And depending on how the aviation industry recovers from the pandemic, we are also well placed to provide training for careers in aerospace as well.”

Local county councillor Sara Randall-Johnson added: “It is vitally important that we maintain this training facility especially for the growing town of Cranbrook which has a young population.”

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