Going for manufacturing growth in the Black Country

Manufacturing is set to grow as work begins on one of the hubs of a new flagship manufacturing skills centre in the heart of the Black Country.

The Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) approved £8.04 million funding for a new Elite Centre for Manufacturing Skills (ECMS) in Wolverhampton with training hubs due to open in Tipton, Dudley, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton.

Demolition work is about to begin on a derelict building at the proposed site of the hub in Dudley Port, Tipton which will focus on foundry and patternmaking skills. A purpose-built training block will be built adjacent to an existing foundry run by Thomas Dudley where students will have access to industrial facilities.

Led by the University of Wolverhampton, one of the partners in the West Midlands Combined Universities collaboration which includes Birmingham City University and Coventry University, the hubs will provide employer-led training centres designed to improve productivity and growth in the high value manufacturing (HVM) sector, bringing together business partners and education providers including Dudley College, the Confederation of British Metalforming, Cast Metals Federation and the Institute of Cast Metals Engineers.  The partners are investing an additional £4.15 million, bringing the total project value to £12.19 million.

Collectively the manufacturing hubs will provide specialist training in Toolmaking, Foundry, Patternmaking, Metalforming, Forging, Manufacturing Management and Leadership and Project Management.

Professor Ian Oakes, Deputy Vice Chancellor at the University of Wolverhampton, said: “Following extensive consultation with businesses across the Black Country, it’s clear that the region is lacking the skills that underpin HVM performance, productivity and growth.

This is a key strategic project in linking employers, further education and higher education in the Black Country and provides another huge step forward in the regeneration of Wolverhampton and the Black Country and will boost the economy and create jobs.”

LEP Board member, Ninder Johal, said: “Through the Elite Centre the Black Country LEP will be able to remove barriers to business growth by supporting employers in key industry sub-sectors to invest in skills and in doing so contribute to improving the pipeline from education to HVM employment.

“Through providing specific, targeted training across five specialist areas, the LEP will continue to support the growth of the global supply chain with the world class skills it demands within the aerospace and motor vehicle sectors.”

Martin Dudley, Joint Managing Director of TDL, said: “The start of construction work is an exciting landmark in the development of the Elite Centre. When complete, this unique facility will help to develop the foundry leaders of tomorrow, by focusing on the value-adding skills that provide British businesses with a huge-advantage over our foreign competitors.”

The Elite Centre for Manufacturing Skills (ECMS) is set to open for business in August 2017 at the University of Wolverhampton’s Springfield Campus.

The ‘toolmaking’ spoke will be principally located in West Bromwich under the guidance of the Confederation of British Metalforming. Metal joining and advanced machining training will be covered by the installation of new equipment and the use of existing equipment at the recently opened Dudley Advance at Dudley College.

Work has already started on site and is due to be complete by August 2017.

Picture caption from left to right: Trevor Ayre (Institute of Cast Metal Engineers), Professor Ian Oakes (Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Wolverhampton), Martin Dudley (Joint Managing Director of TDL) and Ninder Johal (Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership Board member).