Standing at 8,200 m2, the new, fully accessible, state-of-the-art campus opened its doors to students for the first time at the beginning of September and can accommodate 800 full-time students, 2,000 part-time students and 120 staff.
Designed by Hamilton Architects and constructed by Enniskillen-based Tracey Brothers Ltd, the Erne Campus is one of the world’s most sustainable educational buildings, having secured both PassivHaus Premium and BREEAM Outstanding accreditations.
Speaking after performing the official opening, the Minister said: “I am delighted to be able to officially open this fantastic new educational facility for South West College. The new complex is a superb example of what we can achieve in Northern Ireland and will provide a high quality educational environment for learners for many years to come.
“The building has secured world-class sustainability accreditations, the first in the UK to do so, and the college will capitalise on this by delivering a series of innovative and complementary learning and skills programmes, including wind, biomass, sustainable construction, hydrogen, energy storage and sustainable food.”
The Minister added: “My Department has invested £230million across Northern Ireland’s further education estate in recent years, to give learners of all ages the opportunity to gain qualifications in a wide range of skills areas and boost their employment and life chances, in line with my Department’s 10X Economic Vision and associated Skills Strategy.”
Chief Executive of South West College Michael McAlister said: “We are delighted to officially open the doors to the Erne Campus. A long-standing vision has been achieved today with the opening of this fantastic building which has been designed with the needs of our students, community and industry partners firmly in mind.
“Our talented and committed staff have helped bring this project to life and they are central to the education and training opportunities we offer our students. Today is an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the efforts of all those who have been involved with the development of the Erne Campus, from the earliest planning stages through to the construction and furnishing of the building itself, which is unrivalled globally in terms of its design and sustainability credentials.
“We would not be here in this building today without the unwavering support of the Department for the Economy who worked tirelessly with the project team over the past four years and beyond. Their determination to have this building completed to the highest possible standard is indicative of the Minster’s, his predecessors’ and the Department’s commitment to learners in the South West region and to the continued development of our local economy.”
In addition to a high-end Cyber Centre, students can avail of an ultra-modern Learning Resource Centre equipped with the latest IT equipment and an extensive library of hard copy and digital resources. The Erne Campus also has an array of science labs, computer suites and breakout areas to support STEM education.
Other resources include media suites, training and production kitchens for hospitality and culinary arts, and high specification hairdressing and beauty salons which have been designed to ensure students are industry-ready when they complete their qualifications.