Work has begun on a major £4.6 million extension to Shetland College which will help provide much needed extra space for students and staff.
The significant new development, which will see its two parallel blocks linked by a new building, will give the college a more “campus feel” according to principal David Gray.
It promises to introduce new classrooms, video conference suites and an internet cafe. A new library, art studios, an extended construction workshop and a fresh hospitality suite are also in the pipeline.
The work, by civil and engineering contractor Hunter & Morrison, began in earnest yesterday after a special turf-cutting ceremony at the site.
Professor Gray said the work would take the college firmly into the 21st century. “Shetland College has a significant number of students. There are currently around 3,500 students enrolled with us. We need additional space, and phase three will give us a tertiary education campus for Shetland with state of the art facilities that will take us firmly into the 21st century.
“The extension itself will be in three parts. Both of the current buildings will be extended to give us additional space for the departments we already have. There is then a third building being built between the two buildings to join us together.
“The idea is that we will start to have a proper ‘campus feel’ at the college and there will be pedestrian areas that will allow the students to move between the buildings quite easily.”
Currently the college’s hospitality kitchens operate at the Bruce Hostel on the opposite side of Lerwick. As part of the project they will now be moved to the new building.
The extension also means the college will act as a “national hub” for creative industries, such as textiles and music.
That would involve a team of industry experts basing themselves at the Gremista campus and helping to move industries forward.
Prof Gray said: “The University of the Highlands and Islands is running a project that will base a team of creative industry specialists at Shetland College, and form a creative industries institute, which will hopefully be in place for 2013.
“It will mean Shetland becoming a national hub for creative industries. We’d want to build on the strength Shetland has, so we could look at textiles, fabrication, sculpture work and painting, but also on music as well.
“The team will have responsibility for the whole Highland and Islands region, so it was a logical move to base them here.”
Prof Gray added that students would also be based at the new music venue Mareel once it has been opened.
College board chairman, councillor Allan Wishart, described the first day of the extension as “a momentous occasion.”
He said: “Many years ago people were educated to leave, but now it’s really good to see a place here with students of all ages and abilities.”
SIC head of development Neil Grant added: “With so much focus on budget cuts, it’s really important we continue to invest in people and skills development.”
The council provided £2,013,000 to the project, with additional cash coming from the European Regional Development Fund (£1,809,000) and the Scottish Funding Council (£500,000). The college itself put up £300,000.