THE first minister of Wales paid a visit to Rhyl to officially open a new £12million Engineering Centre.

The three-floor facility, spanning 3,000m², packed with more than £2m worth of the latest highly specialised training equipment: from CAD computer design suites, through 3D prototyping machines, to computer-controlled, large industrial scale metal-cutting CNC machines, is based at Coleg Llandrillo’s campus on Cefndy Road.

Mark Drakeford, who is stepping down from his role in March, attended the impressive development on Wednesday, February 21. He was joined by Lesley Griffiths MS, Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd.

After being greeted by Lawrence Wood, Principal of Coleg Llandrillo, and meeting other guests and dignitaries, Mr Drakeford sat through a presentation and said some words himself before drawing the curtain on the official plaque declaring the centre 'open'. 

The first minster then enjoyed a tour of the centre which boasts an industrial-scale wind turbine servicing and maintenance hall. He also spoke to students.

Rhyl Journal: Wales' first minister Mark Drakeford has a cup a tea and admires the cakes students have made. Pictured with Lawrence Wood, Principal of Coleg LlandrilloWales' first minister Mark Drakeford has a cup a tea and admires the cakes students have made. Pictured with Lawrence Wood, Principal of Coleg Llandrillo (Image: Suzanne Kendrick / Newsquest)
Mr Drakeford told coastal chief reporter Suzanne Kendrick: "It means a great deal [to be here today and have this centre in Rhyl] because here you see, in front of you, the future of the Welsh economy, the future of jobs for young people in this part of Wales. If we know nothing else about the future, we know that the way in which we powered the world for the last 150 years, depleting the world's resources of coal, of gas, that is going to come to an end. Those things are finite resources. The world in the future will be powered by renewable resources and we are lucky here in Wales that we have all the natural resources you can think of to make that future. 

"It is a leap of faith for young people to commit themselves to that but the fact that here, in Rhyl, people will see in front of them the best possible resources, teaching to go alongside it, a partnership with major companies. 

Rhyl Journal: Mark Drakeford and Lesley Griffiths with guests and dignitariesMark Drakeford and Lesley Griffiths with guests and dignitaries (Image: Suzanne Kendrick / Newsquest)
"I think it is genuinely a really exciting day for Rhyl."

The new centre has been funded by the Welsh Government's Sustainable Communities for Learning Programme and Grwp Llandrillo Menai. It features a renewable energy facility, a collaborative effort with RWE Renewables, who manage numerous renewable energy sites across the UK. 

Rhyl Journal: Presentation about the new Engineering Centre at the collegePresentation about the new Engineering Centre at the college (Image: Suzanne Kendrick / Newsquest)
Mark McDonough, Wind Turbine Operations and Maintenance Trainer and Assessor, who has been at the college for about 15 years, said: "This brand new building will give the students more opportunities to train further skills and train with new technology as well.

Rhyl Journal: Mark McDonoughMark McDonough (Image: Suzanne Kendrick / Newsquest)
"It was very exciting to see the first minister and to have his presence here. It just goes to show how important renewable energy is to Wales."

Rhyl Journal: Mr Drakeford speaks with studentsMr Drakeford speaks with students (Image: Suzanne Kendrick / Newsquest)
Protesting farmers staged a protest at the college gates during Mr Drakeford's visit. About 200 farmers followed the first minister to the college.

The protest attracted a large police presence. 

Rhyl Journal: Tractors cause disruption in RhylTractors cause disruption in Rhyl (Image: Leighton Simcox)
The Journal published a video showing Mr Drakeford arriving at the college. When inside the new centre, he was asked if it was "nice to get past the tractors" and he seemed to reply: "Nothing better to do, apparently." 

It was understood that Mr Drakeford was due to visit the Queen's Market site in Rhyl. This was cancelled due to the protest.