East Devon District Council welcomes big boost for local economy with launch of Future Skills Centre

Exeter College’s new Future Skills Centre, located in East Devon, has opened its doors for the first time following a collaboration between Devon County Council and the Ofsted Outstanding College.

Devon County Council has purchased the building that was formerly the Flybe Training Academy, and Exeter College has agreed to enter into a long lease of the building to offer training and education opportunities from the building, providing learners of all ages skills and qualifications fit for the economy of the future.

The Centre, which has been vacant since Flybe went in to administration in March, will provide the region with a specialist facility for the delivery of training for future-facing high-tech jobs in engineering, digital, construction and clean growth.

The College had previously been the chosen academic partner of the Flybe Training Academy and since 2007 had delivered a range of programmes, including non-aerospace courses, from the building. The new Future Skills Centre, as it will now be called, will offer inspirational opportunities for the region’s young people, while also providing adult learners the chance to upskill or retrain for a new career.

Councillor Paul Hayward, East Devon District Council's Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Economy and Assets, said:

I am delighted to learn that the contracts have finally been signed by Devon County Council and partners. Together with Exeter College, they will be pushing full-steam ahead to deliver additional fantastic training opportunities for our younger residents, at this economically challenging time. I look forward to visiting the site to see for myself how this new Skills Centre will complement the amazing results already being delivered by East Devon District Council throughout the established Enterprise Zone. A wonderful day for our district and may I extend my personal thanks to all those who have worked so hard to get us over the finish line.

Devon County Council has invested almost £4million in to the project and agreed for Exeter College take a lease of the building to enable it to provide courses based at the Future Skills Centre.

In addition, the College has secured a £1million grant from the Government’s Getting Building Fund to enhance, transform and equip the Future Skills Centre to be a nationally significant hub for training and education. This continues the College’s reputation of creating a line-of-sight to industry in their offer, ensuring that students learn in up-to-date facilities that prepare students for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

The news is particularly welcome as Devon adapts to a reshaped economy, with many adults now looking to retrain for a new career or upskill in their current roles.

Devon County Council leader John Hart said:

It is vital that everyone in the county – residents and visitors alike – does everything they can to keep the incidence of coronavirus as low as possible.

But we must plan for the future and do all we can to protect and improve our economy so we can thrive and prosper.

Our young people have been among the groups worst affected by Covid and this directly addresses their future prospects as well as catering for people of all ages who may want to re-train.

Creating and retaining a highly skilled workforce will underpin the economic prosperity of Devon and will be a key part of our recovery plan after Covid-19.

That’s why we are making this substantial, £4 million investment in our economic future and I am delighted that we have been able to work with Exeter College who I know will provide the highest quality and variety of courses.


Devon’s Cabinet member for economy and skills, Rufus Gilbert, said:

High-tech skills for engineering and digital are vital to our economy.

Engineering and its aligned professions account for some eight per cent of Devon’s workforce but provide around 20 per cent of our output.

Around two per cent of Devon’s engineers retire each year and there are key gaps in the engineering sector. So ensuring a steady supply of experienced engineering professionals is a key element of our long-term growth plans.

They will be an important part of our plans to reset our economy for a future skills agenda taking in high-tech engineering, digital and data, advanced manufacturing, sustainable construction and clean growth and energy.

And depending on how the aviation industry recovers from the pandemic, we are also well placed to provide training for careers in aerospace as well.

Our young people are our future. This is an excellent plan and we are doing it for them.

It will support the creation and retention of local talent, provide rewarding careers for our young people and support innovation across the business sector.


Exeter College Principal and Chief Executive John Laramy said:

We’re delighted to be able to work with Devon County Council for the benefit of learners, our city and the wider region.

The Future Skills Centre will be the home of our forward-facing programmes of study, designed to help learners at different stages of their lives get the skills they need to fulfil the jobs of the future.

Not only will this Centre provide the future skills for a more sustainable Devon, it will also support us to develop skills in digital and data technologies, including building on our track record of working with artificial intelligence and supporting emerging sectors such as robotic agriculture.

This collaboration reinforces our position as an innovative training and education provider, but more importantly ensures that the wider community has access to the very best opportunities.

One of the most exciting elements of this collaboration is the long term benefits this will have for the region in helping to ensure Devon retains a highly-skilled, local workforce that continues to thrive in challenging times.

The creation of the Future Skills Centre builds on Exeter College’s reputation for delivering exceptional training and education opportunities, with a new Digital and Data Centre on their Hele Road campus set for completion early in 2021. The Digital and Data Centre is part of a wider South West Institute of Technology plan to revolutionise digital, engineering and manufacturing technology across the region.

Courses are being taught from the Future Skills Centre now, with courses for both school leavers and adult learners being offered at the building.

Applications are now open to join Exeter College in 2021.