Nicola Sturgeon has pledged her government will continue its commitment to colleges as she officially opened a new institution built on the site of a former whisky bottling plant.
Drinks giant Diageo gifted land in Kilmarnock to Ayrshire College after it closed its Johnnie Walker facility in the town in 2012 with the loss of 700 jobs.
Politicians including the then first minister Alex Salmond campaigned against the closure but Ms Sturgeon thanked Diageo for its “generosity” in donating the site.
Ms Sturgeon met students at Ayrshire College’s £53 million Kilmarnock campus in East Ayrshire, where 5,500 students and 338 staff are involved in more than 100 courses.
The First Minister said: “Students are clearly thriving in this brand-new campus and they will soon form part of a highly-skilled workforce that is tailored for the regional economy.”
She said the revamped Kilmarnock site “demonstrates how a modern, fit-for-purpose campus and its facilities can truly inspire learning”.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Diageo for gifting the site to the college. Their generosity will make an ongoing difference to young people’s lives in the Ayrshire region.Nicola Sturgeon
The SNP leader continued: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank Diageo for gifting the site to the college. Their generosity will make an ongoing difference to young people’s lives in the Ayrshire region.
“Colleges are vital to our economic growth and success. Over the last Parliament, we maintained 116,000 college places annually and we are determined to continue this commitment to purposeful, job-focused learning.
“Our nationwide investment in colleges in support of the major reform programme, coupled with our modern apprenticeship programme, is helping to reduce unemployment among young people and at this critical point in their lives, giving them meaningful aspirations for their futures.”
Willie Mackie, chair of Ayrshire College, said: “This new campus in Kilmarnock is a major boost for regeneration and vibrancy in East Ayrshire.
“Over 5,000 students will attend the new campus each year, where they will learn industry-recognised skills in industry-relevant facilities using industry-leading equipment.”
College principal Heather Dunk said: “The college is making a real difference to people’s lives in Ayrshire and I have no doubt that students, local communities and employers will reap the benefits of our unrivalled facilities for many years to come.”