Kirklees College has restored and transformed Pioneer Higher Skills Centre in Dewsbury, as a brand new, learning facility dedicated to higher skills and higher education.

Pioneer House is one of Dewsbury’s most iconic landmarks. Built by the local Co-operative in 1878, it was a hub of activity for over 100 years, but for the last decade, it stood empty. Now the historic Victorian Grade II-listed building has been given new purpose, as Kirklees College comes to the end of an ambitious £14 million restoration project.

The opening of the specialist centre marks a key milestone in the Dewsbury Blueprint, a ten-year plan that aims to make Dewsbury town centre a safe, attractive, family friendly place to live, work, visit or learn.

The specialist centre has been designed to increase the skills of local people by supporting them to gain qualifications, work skills and enhance their career prospects.

The restoration and regeneration project of the former Co-operative building has been funded by Kirklees Council together with Kirklees College with further contributions from the Leeds City Region Growth Deal, delivered by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) and the Leeds LEP, The Heritage Lottery Fund and The Dewsbury Townscape Heritage Initiative.

The building covers 45,000 square metres over three floors and has been transformed into a state-of-the-art facility, with many heritage features maintained to provide a unique study environment.

In addition to the new art workshops, fashion and textiles studio, science labs, classrooms and IT suites, there is an extensive Learning Resource Centre to support learners in their studies.

The centre also boasts a hair and beauty salon, café, Starbucks coffee shop and dedicated social spaces.

It is located across the road from Dewsbury train station which will be convenient for many people, the centre offers degree level courses on the doorstep of learners designed with their family and other commitments in mind.

With lower course fees and small class sizes offering specialist academic support, the Pioneer Higher Skills Centre provides an affordable and flexible alternative to university study.

The Pioneer Higher Skills Centre will offer a wide range of vocational courses taught by industry experienced tutors to provide learners with hands-on experience in their chosen career path.

The centre will offer full time or part time courses in art and design, business, early years, ESOL, computing, counselling, teaching and hair and beauty.

Kirklees College also work closely in partnership with industry employers, including Kirklees Council, Hovis, Coca Cola, Myers Group and Microsoft, to ensure that learners are equipped with the skills in demand to meet the needs of potential employers and have access to the latest apprenticeships and career progression opportunities.

Phillipa Firth, Assistant Principal for Adults and Higher Education, said, “We are very excited to be delivering our Higher Education programmes from the newly restored Pioneer Higher Skills Centre.”

“We hope that this specialist centre will be a welcome addition to the local area and provide the people of Dewsbury and beyond with the opportunity to learn a new skill or start a new career at Kirklees College.”

Councillor Peter McBride, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Regeneration commented, “It’s wonderful to see Pioneer House has been injected with new life. The regeneration of this superb, historic building is just one element of our Blueprint for Dewsbury, to honour the heritage and bring more activity to the town centre.”

He said, “The state-of-the-art facilities offered at the Pioneer Higher Skills Centre will attract staff and students into the heart of Dewsbury, adding to the vibrancy of the area and boosting town centre businesses too.”

For more information about the Pioneer Higher Skills Centre, please visit www.kirkleescollege.ac.uk.