It was a day in the Midlands for Sophie, Countess of Wessex, as she visited several education organisations and handed out The Queen’s Award for volunteering.
The day began at Birmingham City University’s School of Jewellery in the heart of Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, which produces 40% of the UK’s jewellery.
The School of Jewellery, located in the famous quarter since 1890, is part of Birmingham City University and is supported by The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community; Charles and Camilla visited last year.
Here, Sophie was given a tour of the facility, and got up close to watch how watches are repaired, and spoke with students about their ongoing projects.
Rebecca Sellors, a graduate of the school, presented the Countess with a commemorative gift to mark her visit -a necklace, fitting for the venue.
Next it was to University College Birmingham to open McIntyre House. The building, also located in the Jewellery Quarter, is a new £26 million centre for higher education and postgraduate study named after a former Principal Dr Eddie McIntyre.
To mark the opening, the Countess unveiled a commemorative plaque and met Dr McIntyre, before taking a tour and chatting with students.
Dr McIntyre became the youngest principal of a UK further education college when he took charge of the then Birmingham College of Food and Domestic Arts at the age of 36 in 1983. On his watch, the school grew and expanded into higher education, acquiring new facilities and staff. He received a CBE for his services to education.
The Edward Pargeter Suite and the Brendan Carroll Lecture Theatre are two study spaces which celebrate the legacy UCB academics. Sophie, 50, got the chance to speak with the families of the lecturers, after which she was presented with a posie.
Phase 2, the next step in the university’s redevelopment, received a visit from Princess Edward. It is a former industrial site, transformed into a £65 million centre for academic study, innovation and commerce, double the size of the building Sophie opened today.
Lunch was hosted by Zoey Harris, President of the Guild of Students, which the Countess attended and chatted to student representatives from across UCB’s further education, higher education and postgraduate courses.
Prof Linforth said: “We are delighted and honoured to have The Countess of Wessex officially open McIntyre House. UCB is committed to improving the life chances of all our students, from diverse academic and cultural backgrounds, and in McIntyre House we have a facility worthy of delivering our industry-respected vocational degree courses.
Then, it was over to Stourbridge, where Sophie presented The Queen’s Award for Volunteering Services. This took place at The Elton Centre for workers at Happy Hours, a youth and social club for people with learning disabilities.
The award is given to groups making a positive impact on their local communities, and they received a certificate signed by The Queen and a commemorative piece of crystal to display.
This evening, Sophie and Prince Edward are hosting a dinner for the International Special Projects of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation.