Professor Brian Cox OBE visited Teesside officially opened the new £20m STEM skills training centre at Middlesbrough College on Thursday.
He said the centre – which delivers world class skills training in science, technology, engineering and maths – is “an incredibly impressive place”.
He added: “It’s ground-breaking – there’s a real understanding here of what industry needs and the new centre is delivering the kind of training that provides real experience.
“Everybody will benefit, and it’s absolutely obvious that centres of this kind are needed across the country.
“It’s an act of genius – before you can train a skilled workforce you have to ask what it is industry wants and that’s exactly what has happened here.
“It has genuinely surpassed my expectations, it should be used as a blueprint and I’ll be lobbying very hard for places like this to be supported across the country.”
Staff and students welcomed the famous physicist to the £100m college campus, home to the impressive new STEM building.
He talked to scores of young scientists and engineers who are already benefiting from world class training in process, engineering, manufacturing and supply chain industry skills.
The new centre – which focuses on science, technology, engineering and maths – replicates a genuine industrial environment and the equipment and professional operations are what you’d expect to find anywhere in industry.
The college worked with more than 40 leading employers who helped shape the courses on offer as well as the high specification industrial equipment.
It’s the only centre of its kind and is an example of what can be achieved when education and industry work together to create World Class training solutions.
It means that when apprentices and students complete their training they will possess the skills, competencies, and behaviours needed by industry.
Zoe Lewis, principal and chief executive, said: “Five years ago Middlesbrough College had fewer than 100 apprentices, this year we will train more than 1,000 across a wide range of disciplines.
“We and our partners firmly believe that STEM education and training has the potential to transform this region’s economic competitiveness.”
Middlesbrough College directly aligned its offer to the skills requirements of employers and invested in new employer-led facilities and equipment and adapted and developed the courses and trainee experiences to closely match the skills needs in the local economy.
Thousands of apprentices will train there, as well as those already working in industry and who want to learn the latest skills and techniques.
Free courses are being offered for those directly affected by the closure of SSI in Redcar.
The centre’s specialist team of trainers are industry experts and have spent many years working for leading industry operators and service companies.
Within the centre are three sections of industrial facilities – Process Operations and Maintenance, an Advanced Manufacturing Centre, and Logistics and Warehousing.
The centre also houses a DCS control room which monitors and operates all the processes, including a fully functional control system overlooking the process hall with operator workstations.
Companies involved in the centre’s development include Bignall Group, Casper Shipping Ltd, Caterpillar UK, Centre for Process Innovation, Cleveland Potash Ltd, Cogent Group (TAS), Conoco Phillips, Cordell Group, ECITB, EEF, ElringKlinger GB Ltd, Foster Wheeler Energy Ltd, Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, Heerema, Huntsman Pigments, Huntsman Polyurethane, INEOS Nitriles (UK) Ltd, Johnson Matthey, K Home International Ltd, Lotte Chemicals, Lucite, NIFCO, NorthEast Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC), PD Ports, Redcar Bulk Terminal, Sembcorp, SABIC UK Petrochemicals, Tees Components and Wilton Engineering.