One of the most sophisticated technical education centres of its type in Britain has been officially opened at Reaseheath College in Cheshire.

The £8 million Centre for Advanced Engineering and Agri-Technology has been created specifically to deliver next generation skills in precision engineering, precision farming, service engineering and diagnostic testing.

The initiative, part of a total £80 million investment across campus, was supported by Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) which has contributed £8.9m from the Government’s Local Growth Fund to this and other recently completed projects at Reaseheath.

The advanced engineering centre has been created in partnership with leading agricultural engineering companies, many of which have donated top class machinery and equipment. The specialist facility is enabling Reaseheath lecturers to deliver technical training on the latest crop production systems and science subjects such as data mapping to agricultural engineering students.

Features include workshops and a technology suite equipped for the teaching of computer controlled automation and high end precision engineering. Equipment includes tractor simulators, GPS and other advanced agricultural engineering systems.

The centre is now fully operational and Reaseheath is looking to expand its agricultural engineering courses to include Level 4 and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for those already working in the industry.

Additionally, the college plans to cater for Advanced Apprenticeships in agricultural and construction plant engineering through the teaching of advanced farming techniques and management.

Said Head of Agricultural Engineering Tim Gibbs: “This ground breaking centre combines all aspects of agricultural innovation, mechanisation and advanced engineering under one roof. It allows us to teach and develop efficient modern farming techniques including precision land management and precision farming. This will enable us to meet increased demand for specialist training from our industry partners, and to equip our students with the skills they will need for their future careers.”

Philip Cox, Chief Executive of Cheshire and Warrington LEP, said: “Innovation is at the heart of our ambitions to grow the local economy, creating more opportunities for business and people living and working here. This investment is part of a total £9.9 million programme the LEP has made to support Reaseheath’s position as one of the UK’s foremost agricultural innovation centres.”

Reaseheath Principal Marcus Clinton added: “The funding from our LEP partners emphasises that this government understands the need for specialist technical skills training to meet employer needs and drive productivity. I’d like to thank the LEP for its continued support and all our valued industry partners and highly skilled staff for their commitment. This combined approach enables us to provide a pipeline of talent to service important and increasingly STEM driven sectors which require students with the skills and mindset for tomorrow.”

Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, Rt Hon Jake Berry MP, commented: “This is a world-class facility at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse which will ensure young people have the skills they need to secure well-paid jobs in the growing agri-tech sector.

“Our £8.9 million Local Growth Fund investment in Reaseheath College is unlocking opportunities for young people across Cheshire and Warrington as we level up the Northern Powerhouse and the whole of the UK.”

The centre was officially opened by CEO of the Institution of Agricultural Engineers (IAgrE), Ed Hansom, who said: “This new Centre for Advanced Engineering and Agri-Technology is an excellent example of how academia and industry can work collaboratively to move agricultural engineering well and truly into the 21st Century. These facilities will ensure that Reaseheath students are fully prepared to meet the technological and engineering challenges of a rapidly changing industry.”

Also present at the launch were Agricultural Engineers Association council members and technical trainers from leading manufacturers including CaseIH, New Holland, JCB, KUHN, Manitou, Kverneland, Vicon, Househam, KRONE, Vaderstad and Teagle.

The companies sent sophisticated machinery which were demonstrated as part of a unique Technical Training Day for full time students and apprentices. These included the world’s fastest tractor, built by JCB and driven to a record breaking 136 mph by motorsports personality Guy Martin, and Vaderstad’s industry leading superfast seed drill.