For over 200 years, the Boddingtons Brewery at Strangeways was one of Manchester’s most famous brands.
Founded by two grain merchants, Thomas Caister and Thomas Fray, on the eve of the Industrial Revolution in 1778, the business of selling beer to thirsty factory workers proved successful.
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As the population of Manchester exploded, so did the profits.
Since then, however, palates have changed, as has the fate of regional breweries.
The iconic Boddies Chimney collapsed when the brewery was demolished in 2007 and the site has since been used for cheap downtown parking.
But from September 2022, this historic piece of land in front of the AO Arena will be reborn.
A new Â£ 93million campus is under construction for Manchester College, with state-of-the-art facilities for students embarking on careers in the creative and digital industries.
Where workers once would have malted and crushed, there will be teenagers learning 3D animation in a Hollywood-style green room, or mixing a production in a soundproof music studio.
Instead of copper tanks, there will be a glittering ‘Jewel Box’ theater – the centerpiece of the building with 180 seats – where students can study Stanislavski and Strasberg.
Budding chefs will hone their culinary skills at a ground-floor restaurant open to the public, while creatives can use cavernous ceilings to display sculptures, textiles or modern art.
Lisa O’Loughlin, principal of Manchester College and its higher education provider UCEN, considers the new campus to be one of the most exciting chapters in the institution’s history.
âIf you think back to when Boddingtons was here a lot of local people would have traveled from Lancashire, it was part of the regional economy – now the creative and digital industries are contributing Â£ 2.6bn to the Greater Manchester economy, “she told MEN
“That’s what we want to see, some really exciting careers that stand the test of time.”
Work on the five-story building across from the AO Arena, led by construction company Wilmott Dixon, is proceeding apace.
On a tour this week, MEN got their first glimpse of what is expected to be one of the city centre’s busiest new landmarks.
Around 3,000 students are expected to start next year on BTECs, T-levels and diplomas in a wide range of fields of study, including IT and digital, creative and digital, hospitality and catering, performing arts and visual arts.
“It will be competitive [to get in]”Lisa admitted.
“We have so much interest in this new campus now that it’s getting crazy.”
âThis year we had our first open house and we had double the number of students we would normally expect.
âThere’s a lot of buzz about it.
“If you were a kid why wouldn’t you want to come here [into the city centre]? But the program also benefits, as it is co-created and delivered with employers.
“Internships in industry are integrated [the qualifications]. “
The clamor for places in continuing education courses may reflect a long-awaited shift in attitude about the path that can lead to well-paying jobs for young people.
Manchester College stopped providing A-levels last year.
Instead, it will offer a number of T-levels, a two-year qualification equivalent to three A-levels that combines classroom learning with industry internships of at least 315 hours (approximately 45 days).
The subjects available include accounting, catering, finance, human resources, construction and engineering.
Lisa sees this model as the way forward and says all Manchester College courses are now tailor-made with industry experts and delivered as close to the ‘real world’ as possible.
âThere is a perception that has to change,â she says.
âPeople tend to see A-Levels as the path to a great job.
âOne of the things we’re proud of that sets us apart from other colleges is that all of our courses are co-created with employers.
âWe are working with them to decide what qualifications to offer, which should be in the curriculum.
“They have a hard time recruiting so it’s in their best interests.”
There is no better illustration of this philosophy than college students Mackenzie Garrett, Jack Livesey, both 17, and Felix Palin, 20.
All three benefit from construction and engineering scholarships offered by Wilmott Dixon and help build the very campus where they could study in the future.
âIt’s huge to work in real life on something that’s going to last a long time,â said Mackenzie of Oldham.
âWe’re going to have two years of experience working with the company, rather than just sitting around [in a classroom] learning.
âYou can’t compare the two.
“It helps you develop a professional front that you wouldn’t get in school.”
Lisa emphasizes that while she expects the new campus to be popular, the goal is to benefit as many people as possible, regardless of their background.
âIn Manchester and Greater Manchester you can earn a fabulous salary, but the main thing is to connect our residents to these opportunities,â she said.
âWe work a lot with schools, starting in grade 8, and probably earlier in some cases.
âTalk to them about careers available, what they might want to do, start taking them to college for open houses so they can hear what it’s like to work on TV or in the movies.
âWe can start working on this transition.
âThe barriers to coming to college – financial, social, cultural, emotional – we can overcome them.
âThis is what our teachers do in schools, explaining the support packages we can put in place.
“No student needs to worry about transportation or not having a laptop.”
In many ways, Lisa sees the new campus as an opportunity to connect some of Manchester’s most disadvantaged communities with the success story of the city center.
âWe have a long history with the communities of Manchester, we understand our students and their origins,â she said.
“Our entire strategy is focused on inclusive growth – making the most of the opportunities for our residents.”
âEveryone knows us – we’re the sweet sister or aunt looking after them – we’ve just had a makeover, we’re just a little prettier!
“It’s about making sure that communities come here, rub shoulders with people who have great careers and money to spend.
âWe want that. We want the kids from Harpurhey, or Wythenshawe, or Ardwick or Cheetham Hill to come here. Or Oldham or Salford!
“And have those kinds of opportunities.
“It’s their city and it’s their college, it’s at the heart of the city and an opportunity to reclaim this space.”
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