SOUTH West College's new Erne Campus is finally nearing completion, with the college's Chief Executive, Michael McAlister, confirming that the building will be ready "well in advance" of its planned opening for September this year.

Speaking to The Impartial Reporter in the foyer of the new college building at the former Erne Hospital site in Enniskillen, the Chief Executive explained that the campus is "almost at practical completion".

"We’re actually at the stage now technically referred to as 'takeover'," said Mr. McAlister, going on to explain what this stage involves.

"We’ve moved into the building; we’re accessing it to bring in all of the various fit-out components and things like that.

"But in terms of practical completion, that’s when all of the little snags that have to be finished in any new building are completed, so that’s probably a couple of weeks away."

When asked if they are on track to open the new campus in September, Mr. McAlister responded: “Absolutely, yes. We’ll be ready well in advance of September, but it’s probably the most feasible time to bring in new students, rather than in the third term that we’re in here so we’ll wait until September for new students – but we’ll be ready well in advance of that."

Regarding applications for courses at SWC, this newspaper asked Mr. McAlister if the college had seen an influx for the upcoming academic year due to the opening of the new campus.

He said: “Applications are very strong across all levels. These past 18 months, we have had virtual online open days."

He added that if they have any open days where people can come into the building it’ll be "absolutely in-line with any guidance from the Executive".

Talking about what the new Erne Campus will bring to the local area and community, Mr. McAlister said: “I suppose if you drive up the Cornagrade Road, you can see a very iconic building now.

“Certainly it will be impressive to look at, but it’s much more than that," he added, noting that the new building meets huge performance levels.

"We set out at the start of this process to identify two very high performance metrics and one of them was 'Passive House Premium' which is the highest level of passive house performance you can have in any building.

"The other one was BREEAM 'outstanding' – which, again, is the highest level of performance there against the BRE – the building research establishment assessment methodology.

"That’s a global methodology for looking at buildings to see how they perform, so it's performing at the highest level against both of those, internationally leading and that then will be a source for us to roll-out programmes of study in those key areas," he said, outlining how alongside the 'normal' curriculum the college offers, it will also have new courses available.

"We’ll have new areas, such as Passive House Designer, Passive House Tradesperson. We’re launching a new degree in building services for September – a Bachelor of Engineering.

"We’ll also be launching a new degree in Cyber Security. We have a new cyber centre built into the campus here so there’s lots of exciting things happening purely because of the type of building that we’re moving in to," he told this newspaper.