£4m manufacturing skills centre gets official opening
A £4m fully-equipped training hub purpose-designed to improve manufacturing skills in the West Midlands has been officially opened.
The Marches Centre of Manufacturing and Technology is housed in a 36,000 sq ft site on the Stanmore Industrial Estate in Bridgnorth.
The centre is run by a consortium of local businesses including Classic Motor Cars, Grainger & Worrall, In-Comm Training and Salop Design & Engineering.
Philip Dunne, Minister of State for Health and MP for Ludlow, performed the opening ceremony in front of 250 people – many of whom were seeing the centre for the first time.
Matthew Snelson, managing director of the new centre, used the opening ceremony to issue a rallying call for more firms to work together in a bid to stop ‘cannibalising’ the pool of industry talent in the UK.
He believes the MCMT offers a perfect blueprint for other companies to follow after it secured £1.9m of Government Growth Deal funding via the Marches LEP and backing from Shropshire County Council to create specialist training opportunities for apprentices and existing workers.
“If we continue to sit back and wait for others to solve the skills gap then we’re going to fall short of where we need to be in terms of skills and productivity in UK manufacturing,” said Mr Snelson.
“We need to flood the market with new talent and ensure there are enough individuals to satisfy the growth expectations of industry. You only have to look at the West Midlands to see how firms are being held back due to a lack of key skills, both at the new recruits stage and with their existing workforces.”
The centre has set itself the ambitious target of delivering more than 2,020 learning opportunities by 2020.
It has taken more than 18 months planning by the four companies involved to bring the centre to completion. Even then, it was down to their own investment and the backing of the Marches LEP that turned the vision into a reality.
The centre is housed in an old storage facility used by automotive supplier Grainger & Worrall.
It is equipped with more than £2m of new equipment, including dedicated fabrication, foundry, lathe, metrology, milling, robotics and vehicle trimming sections.
There is also a 200-seat auditorium, smaller break-out classrooms and a CNC Zone that is full of 3-axis and 5-axis machines donated by the Engineering Technology Group.
Graham Wynn, chairman of the Marches LEP, said: “Employers know best the skills issues they face and the employment needs of their workforces. MCMT is a fantastic example of a private-sector led project to develop the next generation of engineers working within the Midlands Engine.”
Mr Dunne said: “This is an outstanding resource for South Shropshire, providing state-of-the-art engineering equipment to train young people to become the highly skilled engineers and product designers of the future.
“The MCMT is an excellent example of local employers, supported by the Marches LEP and central government, investing in skills through apprenticeships for local school leavers to help sustain local businesses in Shropshire for generations to come.”
The MCMT has already recruited 21 young people for trailblazer apprenticeships in machining, technical support, mechatronics, maintenance and light vehicles.
Eight local employers are already sending individuals to the centre, where they will spend five days per week – for 18 months – learning from expert trainers on technology that few of their peers will have access to.
Future plans include the launch of a heritage engineering apprenticeship to support the classic vehicle, marine, stream and aerospace sectors, plus the roll-out of incubation space and the MCMT Engineering Club.
Pictured at the centre’s official opening are, from left: Graham Wynn (Marches LEP), Peter Neumark (Classic Motor Cars), Thomas Harper (Apprentice at Classic Motor Cars), Matthew Snelson (MCMT), Philip Dunne (Minister for Health), Christopher Greenough (Salop Design & Engineering), Lauren Ball (Apprentice at Caterpillar), Nic Laurens (Shropshire Council) and Bekki Phillips (In-Comm).