A NEW £3m centre delivering training in core skills of science, technology, engineering and maths in Oxford has won Government backing.

The Activate Learning group has been awarded a £1m grant to create the Technology and Innovation Centre at its City of Oxford College campus in Cuddesdon Way, Blackbird Leys. If planners give the go-ahead, the centre will create 60 new apprenticeship places, with a further 60 full-time student places dedicated to the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.

Sally Dicketts, chief executive of Activate Learning, the new name for Oxford and Cherwell Valley College, said: “This project will create a technology and innovation centre located at the heart of the local STEM economy.

“South Oxfordshire is renowned for research, science and technology, with many of the industry-leading employers located within a 10- mile radius of Blackbird Leys.

“The region is targeted for further inward investment, around 100,000 jobs set to be created in the innovation and STEM economy.

“This new centre responds to current and future requirements, providing an essential facility to enable local people to gain the skills required for successful employment in this fast-growing sector.”

The project will create new buildings and refurbish existing facilities at Blackbird Leys to provide enhanced teaching facilities, workshops and modern design and fabrication areas.

Oxford city councillor Steve Curran, whose ward Northfield Brook covers part of the Leys, welcomed the news.

He said: “Anything that produces more apprenticeships in this day and age is fantastic. “We still have a large amount of youth unemployment, and Blackbird Leys is affected by that as much as anywhere else.

“There are a lot of people in Blackbird Leys that will benefit from this, and in the wider community as well.”

Adrian Lockwood, Local Enterprise Board member and chairman of the Oxfordshire Skills Board, said: “The board identified the need for greater investment in STEM skills and training as a regional priority.

“Activate Learning’s plan to redevelop their Blackbird Leys facility reflects their willingness to actively address this issue.”

Now the grant has been approved, Activate Learning will submit a planning application for the centre later this month with a view to starting work in the summer. It is hoped that the centre will be up and running by September 2015.