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Digital Academy taps into demand for talent as gaming industry booms

A MULTI-MILLION pound Digital Academy at Northampton College is set to give students the chance to showcase their skills in one of the region’s first dedicated Esports Arenas.

With competitive gaming one the UK’s fastest growing industries, and potentially lucrative deals awaiting for elite players, digital savvy students can make the most of the state-of-the-art facility to get themselves ahead of the game.

Partly funded by the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership’s Local Growth Fund, the £6.3 million Digital Academy at Booth Lane also includes a TV studio, digital workshops, a Mac suite and a digital design studio plus a whole range of specialist facilities and equipment.

SEMLEP chair Peter Horrocks speaks to guests at the opening of the new Digital Academy at Northampton College

Speaking at the official opening on Tuesday, college principal Pat Brennan-Barrett said: “Our Digital Academy is far more than classrooms and computer screens – it is a place where the future will be created before our very eyes.

“We live in a world where the rapid development of technology allows us to be smarter, more connected and more ambitious than ever before and our new Digital Academy is fully equipped to train the next generation of digital experts.

“Our courses and apprenticeships allow individuals to explore digital careers and progress through a pathway of qualifications leading to higher education, apprenticeships and employment. By working closely with industry professionals to develop each of our programmes, these courses will lead to real-life job opportunities for our students.”

Flagship programmes to be run in the Digital Academy include esports and augmented reality/virtual reality, alongside the college’s already-popular games design courses.

“Gaming is no longer a hobby,” said Jake Zelkowicz, assistant principal for the college’s school of Arts, Digital and Creative Industries. “It is a genuine career choice with potentially significant rewards and Northampton College students will be at the forefront of this growing industry. 

“They have access to a state-of-the-art learning environment which perfectly prepares them for 21st-century working life, sparking their imaginations to produce a new generation of digital pioneers that will shape our futures.”

Peter Horrocks and Northampton College principal Pat Brennan-Barrett officially open the new Digital Academy

The Digital Academy was officially opened by SEMLEP chair Peter Horrocks. “We know from talking to businesses that there is a real lack of digital skills out there so when the college came to us with their proposal, we moved quickly to make the funding available and start building and equipping this incredible facility,” Mr Horrocks said.

“It really is very impressive and students have all the facilities they need to make their mark in a sector that is now worth more than the Hollywood film industry and offers a wide range of potential careers.”

Guests also saw a demonstration from the team behind the network of Starship delivery robots in Northampton and enjoyed a performance from college music students before watching games design students take part in a online Valorant tournament in the Esports Arena complete with live ‘shoutcasting’ and production in the purpose-built control room.

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