A new £3m Technical Academy has opened in the West Midlands to help bridge the skills gap in the region.
In-Comm Training’s 24,000 sq ft training centre has been an employer-led collaboration with a number of manufacturers contributing investment, expertise and input into its creation.
Located in Vigo Place in Aldridge, Walsall, the centre has been backed by £733,000 of Black Country LEP Growth Deal funding and is fitted out with CNC machine tools, automation, a robotics line, metrology, fluid power stations and a dedicated electrical and electronics section.
It will also house material testing, material handling and grinding capabilities, plus a 16-seater Mastercam and CIMCO CAD/Cam studio.
“This is a transformational project for the region and will ensure SME manufacturers have the capabilities and skills to remain competitive,” said Gareth Jones, managing director of In-Comm Training.
“The investment will create an additional 420 Trailblazer Apprenticeship places between now and 2022, whilst also providing 1250 advanced learning opportunities. And this isn’t basic training; this is training that will explore automation, prototyping, R&D, operational excellence and real-time data analysis.”
He continued: “This facility will help SMEs gain access to application engineers and… technology, which will allow them to product develop and process map prior to installing manufacturing cells into their factories.”
The Technical Academy evolved from an open forum involving local employers that highlighted some of the major skills issues they faced and what technology/machinery they would like their staff to be trained on.
From this initial meeting and feedback, the plan was created and a host of technical partners embraced it, including ABB Robotics, Blum-Novotest, Engineering Technology Group, Hexagon Metrology, Houghton, Hyfore, IMI Precision Engineering, Mitsubishi EDM and Zwick Roell.
These firms have supplied the latest CNC Machines, robotics, pneumatics and electrical controls and metrology and delivered them in a way that can be used for training both apprentices and existing ‘skilled’ members of staff on new applications.
Jones said: “This year, we are 40 per cent up on the number of Apprenticeship starts against a national decline of 61 per cent. That is a statistic that shows what happens when employers get really involved in developing the right skills and training provision so they are getting young people and staff that are not only fit for purpose, but also fit for the future.
“This Technical Academy will take it to the next level and will ensure SMEs in the Black Country and the West Midlands have access to the workforce and the technology that will make them globally competitive.
“There is a significant job to do to get more firms involved in Industry 3.0 and then we can start focusing on reaping the benefits of Industry 4.0. This facility is open to any company that wants to advance, test, and trial innovation, whatever their starting level.”