KIRKLEES College has been criticised for pursuing plans for a £7.5m engineering centre – while cutting 50 jobs and striving to improve an “inadequate” rating from education watchdogs.
A planning application for the new centre, which would be built on vacant land at St Andrew’s Road, Turnbridge, is being considered by councillors at a planning committee meeting today.
But rival training provider Kirkdale Industrial Training Services (KITS) criticised the college for pursuing the project in the current climate.
David Toulcher, skills training manager for Brighouse-based KITS, said he accepted the fact that there was competition in the training sector.
KITS and the college share the same catchment area and both provide training in engineering and motor vehicle engineering.
But he said: “We have only recently spent a good deal of money on new machines and teaching centres. Our new facilities were opened by the Duke of Wessex in January.
“We have more than 220 apprentices at KITS and we got 99% of our learners into employment last year.”
Mr Toulcher said funding for the college project was given the green light by the Skills Funding Agency more than two years ago – since when the engineering industry had been hit by recession and fewer firms were recruiting.
He said: “The college says it was granted as project money and it has to be spent.
“But the college has just announced that it is cutting 50 staff and its latest Ofsted inspection had rated some provision at the college as ‘inadequate’.”
KITS’ most recent Ofsted inspection rated the training provider as “satisfactory”.
Mr Toulcher said KITS executives were meeting Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker to voice their concerns.
“It is a not a case of sour grapes,” said Mr Toulcher. “We are concerned about the impact of this development on engineering and on our operations.”
If the application is approved, Kirklees College aims to open the new engineering centre in 2012 – at the same time as the college’s new campus at Chapel Hill.
In a statement, Melanie Brooke, vice principal for corporate services at Kirklees College, said the college would be happy to talk to KITS about its plans.
She said: “The engineering block is part of the college’s long-term planned project for estates development.
“The funding for this project was agreed by the Skills Funding Agency and Kirklees Council following a successful capital bid in 2009.
“Subject to a successful planning application, the college is still on track to open both the engineering centre and the Waterfront Quarter centre in September, 2012.
“We would welcome discussions with KITS about the project if they would like to contact the college directly.”