Lord Adonis has hailed Exeter College's new Technology Centre as "fantastic" facility "which will create huge opportunities for young people developing their skills".
The Labour peer and former education minister and transport secretary officially opened the £8.5m hub for automotive, engineering and aerospace training this morning.
Business leaders and representatives of employers in the Exeter area were given a tour of the state-of-the-art building, where facilities include light vehicle, MOT, motorcycle and HGV workshops; a body shop complete with paint spray booth; a machine shop with welding area; a diagnostics and computer aided design lab and an IT suite.
Stressing the importance of the further education sector in enabling the UK to compete in the global economy, Lord Adonis praised the "transformational" impact of employers and Exeter College working together in developing apprenticeship programmes.
Congratulating Exeter College's staff and governors on the new Technology Centre, he said: "What you are doing here is creating a fantastic centre which will create huge opportunities for young people developing their skills, but you are also part of a big national move to transform our skills base and engage employers with education.
"The bit you are doing here, if we replicate it in towns and cities across the country, will lead to a more successful, more prosperous and more socially cohesive society.
"In 20 or 30 years' time when people look back, they will see developments like the opening of this centre at Exeter College as a real staging post on the way to creating a better economy and a fairer society."
Explaining the decision to site the new Technology Centre at Monkerton on the eastern edge of the city, college principal Richard Atkins said: "We have come here because it's where the future of Exeter is in business terms, with the Growth Point, the Science Park and Skypark and the airport.
"We are hoping to support what will be terrific economic growth to the east of Exeter over the next 20 years. As well as lots of graduates, we are going to need lots of technically qualified young people with vocational skills to support that growth.
"This wonderful new facility is a really exciting development for Exeter College. With staff who are experienced and qualified in their occupations, it feels like the real world of work and when you talk about the challenge of motivating young people, facilities of this kind are going to make a real difference."