A state-of-the-art training centre that is preparing young people and adults for careers in engineering has opened its doors in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire.
West Nottinghamshire College has invested £5.8 million in creating a flagship engineering and automotive hub that provides students with some of the best vocational training facilities in the East Midlands.
College chiefs say the Engineering Innovation Centre will produce highly-trained technicians in specialist fields while helping plug skills gaps across a range of sectors including manufacturing, vehicle maintenance and advanced automation.
The building boasts dedicated workshops for electrical, electronic and mechanical engineering, fabrication and welding, and motor-vehicle maintenance. In addition to being trained in carbon and hybrid technologies, students have access to advanced design and manufacture machinery, along with high-spec motor vehicle diagnostic facilities.
It also features classrooms, IT suites, a library and learning resource area housed on a giant mezzanine overlooking the main vocational areas.
Supported by local employers, the centre accommodates more than 600 students per week including full-time learners, apprentices and those studying higher education programmes.
Previously, the college’s engineering courses were run out of two separate, smaller sites in Mansfield, which gave limited scope to expanding its provision. Running them under one roof means it is now delivering a multi-skilled curriculum that boosts students’ employment prospects by exposing them to a greater number of disciplines.
Head of engineering, Brian Malyan, said: “The Engineering Innovation Centre is purposely-designed to equip students with both the technical skills and the ability to adapt to technological advancements by moving between engineering disciplines. Increasingly, employers are demanding their workforce is both highly-trained and flexible, so these are key parts of preparing students for the jobs market.
“The centre also comprises areas dedicated to the core skills of English and maths, and the development of personal qualities such as independent-thinking, problem-solving, team-working, communication and leadership. This is done through technical projects and briefs supplied by employers to give students experience of typical workplace situations.
“These are important aspects of the curriculum and the aim is to instil in young people the confidence to follow aspirational career paths.”
The college has pumped £3.9 million into the centre, with the remaining £1.9 million coming from a Skills Funding Agency grant. It forms the latest phase of a £40 million redevelopment of the college’s estate across Mansfield and Ashfield, to equip students with some of the best facilities and learning opportunities in the region.
Principal and chief executive, Dame Asha Khemka, said: “In creating this flagship centre, the college is responding to the region’s existing and emerging skills needs by ensuring we produce the highly-trained engineers required by employers. Higher-level skills are what employers frequently say they are missing and, with many engineers approaching retirement age, it’s vital we help plug the skills gap.
“The engineering sector’s significance to the economy and to local jobs growth cannot be underestimated, given that it runs through so many key industries such as transport, manufacturing and low-carbon.
“And with the East Midlands being home to major employers in the aerospace, automotive and rail sectors, along with SMEs in the local supply chain, there is a vast range of employment opportunities for those with the right qualifications. That’s why high-quality, job-relevant training has never been more important.”
NVQ level 2 mechanical and electrical engineering student Corey Tindall, 17, from Kirkby-in-Ashfield, said: “Studying at the Engineering Innovation Centre is great because it’s got some very high-tech equipment and loads of room to study.
“I decided to study engineering after I started fixing things like bikes and working with metal, and I realised I was good at it.
“I want to make a rewarding career out of it so after college I’d like to be an engineer in the RAF. I’ve already applied and will soon be going for my tests.”
Lauren Lambert, 18, from Clipstone, who is studying the level 1 diploma in automotive maintenance and repair, said: “I really like this new centre – it’s so large and there’s a real variety of cars to work on, so I’m learning more about different engines.
“I’ve had experience of working alongside my dad in the scrap vehicle industry so I’m used to taking engines apart.
“My dream job would be to manage my own garage after my studies.”
James Ling, 18, a BTEC level 3 extended diploma in engineering student, from Forest Town, said: “There are much better facilities here than there were at the old campus.
“I’m enjoying the computer-aided design elements and learning how to put together detailed drawings for the engineering industry.
“Ultimately, I’d like to work in the aerospace industry.”
Praising the new facilities, Ashfield MP Gloria De Piero said: “This investment in the engineering centre is fantastic news for Ashfield and a major boost for local youngsters wanting to forge a career in the industry.
“It’s vital we equip young people with the right skills to succeed. Time and time again when I meet local business-owners, they tell me that they struggle to find skilled workers in manufacturing – hopefully this will help address some of these concerns.
“I’ve already said I’d like to see an end to the culture that says the academic route through education is always best, and vocational skills are second best. We need big changes to our education and skills system to create a clear route for the forgotten 50% that don’t go to university – and this is certainly a step in the right direction.”
Architects for the scheme were ibi Taylor Young while the building contractors were Wildgoose Construction.