WORK will start this spring on a new £1million Digital Skills Academy near York.

Askham Bryan College has been given the green light for the dedicated centre which will be an extension to the college’s existing Learning Resources Centre at the York campus.

The £1m project is being funded by the York & North Yorkshire LEP as one of 10 local schemes to benefit from a £15.4m pot through the government’s Getting Building Fund.

The purpose-built academy which is expected to be completed by winter 2021 will be used to teach essential digital literacy skills to students, enhanced digital skills to those already in industry settings, and to upskill and reskill the current land-based workforce.

There will also be dedicated space within the new building for a mixed reality suite to enable the use of immersive technology within the college’s teaching, allowing students to access simulated environments.

The news comes as the parliamentary Defra select committee session prepares to examine the college’s controversial decision to close and sell its campus in Newton Rigg in Penrith, Cumbria.

Askham Bryan took over Newton Rigg from the University of Cumbria in 2011, and it currently has 440 further education students, 96 apprentices and 117 staff, and almost all the staff are said to have been given notice of redundancy for later this year.

Dr Tim Whitaker, principal and chief executive officer of Askham Bryan College, said: “The creation of the Digital Skills Academy will be of significant benefit to the college’s students, staff and industry stakeholders, and will provide a dedicated space for digital and immersive teaching and learning.

"It will ensure the college becomes a leading provider of digital skills and literacy in the region.

"Sustainable food production and environmental conservation are undergoing a rapid digital revolution. This development will enhance the college’s curriculum and delivery of new skills enabling it to respond with flexibility and agility to these rapidly developing industries.”

The project also aims to ensure staff and students are able to access learning materials on site or remotely.

Askham Bryan College is one of the largest and fastest-growing specialist land-based colleges in the UK, with more than 4,000 students and training about 800 apprentices at sites across northern England.

Learning content will include everything from fundamental basics of digital technology to precision approaches in areas such as agriculture and animal management.

The college hopes to work with partners to develop innovative content for its subjects.

The full £1m for the scheme was allocated by the York & North Yorkshire LEP from the Getting Building Fund.

David Dickson, Chair of the Y&NY LEP's Infrastructure & Joint Assets Board, said: “The region is working towards a greener, fairer, stronger economy, and this project certainly demonstrates those values. We’re pleased to support such an ambitious project which creates further skills provision for the area.”

The Digital Skills Academy design is by Evans McDowall Architects.

The main campus is near York while there are also campuses of varying sizes at Middlesbrough, Saltaire, Newcastle Gateshead, Wakefield, and Newton Rigg, Penrith.