City learning quarter scheme moves to delivery phase

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City of Wolverhampton Council is set to start the process of appointing a contractor to construct an £8.1m technical centre as part of its City Learning Quarter development.

The authority says the Advanced Engineering and Electric Vehicle Centre of Excellence will secure hundreds of jobs in the local economy and create learning opportunities for thousands of students – specialising in the mechanics and engineering of electric vehicles (EV).

Planning permission is already in place for it to be built at City of Wolverhampton College’s Wellington Road site in Bilston, with the hope construction can get underway in summer 2022.

It is phase one of the council’s City Learning Quarter masterplan, after it secured £7.7m funding from the West Midlands Combined Authority and the remainder from the Black Country LEP.

The green light for the scheme is now subject to approval by the council’s Cabinet Resources Panel next Wednesday.

Phase two of the City Learning Quarter masterplan will see a new city centre campus built, subject to further funding bids.

The courses the purpose-built Bilston technical centre will host are not suitable for the proposed city centre location, the council says.

The City Learning Quarter city centre site will be built around the Old Hall Street and St. George’s Parade area.

City of Wolverhampton Council deputy leader Stephen Simkins said: “Never has it been so important to give our residents access to critical skills training so they can secure the jobs available in our region.

“This is another important step towards our vision of a City Learning Quarter.

“These plans will transform the learning environment for our students and residents. It will also offer opportunities to access a new high-end workforce within our city, especially in Bilston.

“We are working hard with City of Wolverhampton College to ensure we not only deliver a vibrant education hub where we improve the city’s learning, apprenticeship and employment offers, but also that we retain our best talent, rather than losing people to different parts of the region.

“The new facilities at Bilston and in the city centre are all part of the wider investment across the city and I have every confidence that when our plans become a reality, we will be creating an environment where everyone can flourish.”

The two-storey technical centre at the Bilston site will feature workshops for engineers, motor vehicle studies and welding, while there will also be ICT classrooms and general teaching areas.

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), added: “With many people having lost their job or left worrying about their future because of the pandemic, it is absolutely critical that we help re-train our workforce and equip local people with the skills employers need.

“Training is at the heart of my 100,000 jobs plan, and it is important that we are moving people into the good quality jobs of the future, which means training workers in the likes of green technology, health and social care, and construction. Through our devolved adult education budget we’re able to work with colleges to do exactly that, and City of Wolverhampton College’s new technical centre – which we have helped fund – is a brilliant example of the work we are doing.

“By working in partnership with local authorities across the West Midlands we are enabling local people to enjoy a rewarding career whilst providing a highly skilled workforce for our region’s businesses.”

A computer generated image of the new technical centre at City of Wolverhampton College’s Wellington Road campus in Bilston