LORD Mandelson described the vibrant new college campus as a “dream come true”.
After an hour-long tour of every department, corridor, classroom, workshop and learning space, he beamed: “You could not have kept me away from this today.”
He spoke with pride as he toured every floor of the flagship college with principal and chief executive Michael Bretherick and Aidan Mullan, chairman of the college’s governing board.
The former Hartlepool MP spoke of the pivotal role the college has to play in the community and how it can raise the aspirations of countless students.
He said: “I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in bringing to fruition what has been a dream.
“That is a dream that has now come true.
“People who study here are going to be very, very lucky.
“It will enable them to move up in the world and fulfill their personal ambitions.”
Lord Mandelson likened the college to a crossroads for the town and for individual students at a time when historic heavy industries had moved into the new-technology era.
He added: “This college is so important and so exciting and stands as the crossroads of so much.
“It embodies ambition and inspiration.”
Lord Mandelson had been invited to open the college’s new Skills Academy and launch the National Skills Academy for Environmental Technologies North East Hub.
The Skills Academy is just one of many features that set the college apart from others in the region.
Hundreds of apprentices and technicians attend the college making it the largest provider of apprenticeships in the Tees Valley and County Durham.
During his tour he took in the aircraft hangar that houses two Jet Provost planes, a Gazelle helicopter and a Rolls Royce jet engine.
He also got behind the wheel of a refurbished classic MG car and marvelled at the mechanics of years gone by.
He also saw the fitness suite – where he lifted a 10kg bar to earn the praise of lecturer Duncan Scarr, who said: “His technique was very good even though he was wearing a suit and tie.”
Lord Mandelson waved at passing students and stopped to chat to many as he did his rounds. He even found the time to have a quick go on a grand piano in the college reception.
Following the tour and buffet lunch for 200 invited guests, the college hosted a two-hour seminar on low carbon and renewable heat initiatives.