The £2 million Kingsland Skills and Enterprise Centre at Houghton Regis won praise from speakers at the opening ceremony as a "fine example" of collaborative working.
It aims to skill and reskill more than 1,000 people locally and, if successful, will provide the base for up to five further Skills and Enterprise centres around the county.
The Kingsland centre has been funded by the East of England Development Agency’s Investing in Communities fund, with the project overseen by the Bedfordshire & Luton Economic Development Partnership. It is the result of collaboration by The Learning Partnership, Bedfordshire County Council, the Learning and Skills Council, The Chamber and Bedford and Barnfield Colleges.
Speakers at the opening ceremony included South West Bedfordshire MP Andrew Selous, Bedfordshire county councillor Cllr John Scott, Alison Webster of EEDA and Heather Maggs, chair of The Learning Partnership.
Billy Schwer (pictured), the Luton-born former world lightweight boxing champion, gave an inspirational speech about how he came to realise the importance of learning after he had left school and retired from boxing. A centre like Kingsland was much-needed in this area, he added.
The Kingsland Centre will provide the Hub for the Skills Institute, with spokes being developed across Bedfordshire and Luton. It is envisaged that this centre will provide much needed opportunities for people in the area, to improve their life chances and encourage the local economy to thrive.
The centre was officially opened by MP Dave Anderson, the Parliamentary Private Secretary Minister of State for Lifelong learning Bill Rammell.
Kingsland will include training, educational and skills development for the construction industry and sports treatments. It will also include five incubation units for new businesses. A nearby building has been refurbished to provide a sports treatment clinic and courses in conjunction with the FA. The construction centre is due to be fully operational next month.
Jon Billington, BLEDP’s Investing In Communities manager, said: ‘"This is a wonderful opportunity for the economy of Bedfordshire and Luton. It has taken a lot of hard work to get his far.
"But the really hard work begins now, persuading those without the skills to survive in the modern economy to use the centre and be able to get much better jobs.
"I welcome the involvement of companies like Siemens Energy in the Centre, so that the skills acquired here will lead directly to new job opportunities for students."