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Coding centre unveiled for new Barnfield College in Luton

18 May 2021

Learning to code has been unveiled as a key part of the curriculum of Luton’s new build Barnfield College.

Work on the £25 million new college started in January and this month plans for a new state-of-the-art coding and digital zone have been unveiled – part of the college’s commitment to supporting employers and nurturing a skilled workforce of the future.

The South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) provided £4.75million of funding to support the development of the coding and digital zone via its Getting Building Fund (GBF) last year, a fund designed to support the UK’s economic recovery following the COVID-19 crisis. The programme funds local, ready to start infrastructure projects which will help local businesses, people, and places to thrive.

Gill Worgan, Principal and CEO of West Herts College, said: “Coding is a national priority and key to our area’s economic growth. Demand for coders in the UK is huge and continues to grow and our new Barnfield College campus is set to play a fundamental role in enabling the delivery of a modern curriculum targeting local skills and labour market priorities.”

“A shortage in suitable digital skills” was described in the ‘Digital Skills in the UK Economy joint report from BIS and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2016’ as a “key bottleneck for industry and linked to one in five of all vacancies”.

Research from the Industrial Strategy Council, an independent advisory group led by Andy Haldane, the Chief Economist at the Bank of England, found that the most widespread under-skilling is likely to be in basic digital skills, with up to two-thirds of the workforce facing some level of under-skilling, and 5 million workers potentially being acutely under-skilled in basic digital skills by 2030.

Hilary Chipping, CEO of SEMLEP, added: “Coding is recognised as one of the key skills for the workforces of today and tomorrow. It is important in practically every industry, and as a result, coding skills are becoming increasingly valued by employers. These essential skills equip employees with the skill to do everything from create apps and design websites to build software and much more. We are delighted our funding will support this essential area of learning and provide businesses with the skilled staff they so need.”

Coding literacy is highly valued among many employers and the rapidly changing work patterns caused by coronavirus mean programming has become more vital than ever.

The new four storey Barnfield College coding and digital centre, part of the West Herts College Group, will align its curriculum with the needs of local employers and is designed to create graduates ready to move into professions including data analysis and design, digital marketing, cyber security, and customer relationship management.

Partnerships with local employers, notably those associated with the Airport Enterprise Zone, will ensure skills are aligned to specific skills needs and apprenticeships.

The new coding and digital zone will include a new gaming studio, to develop students’ digital skills yet further.

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