Manufacturing & Engineering Skills Centre Launched by Pete Waterman

Dudley AdvanceThe future of engineering skills and training in the region was secured when Dudley Advance was launched by Pete Waterman OBE on Friday 18 October 2013. The celebrated music producer and railway enthusiast turned the first turf at the new Centre for Advance Manufacturing and Engineering Technology at Dudley College, Dudley, West Midlands, to mark the start of construction.

The ground-breaking event is the realisation of three years' planning to provide a dedicated training centre for the development of crucial skills and expertise necessary to secure the future of engineering and manufacturing in the Black County and further afield.

Scheduled to open in September 2014, the £8 million centre will provide engineering giants, supply chains and smaller manufacturers with the high-level engineering and manufacturing skills their current and future workforces require.

With growth across the whole sector, skills development is essential to the future of the industry. Today's launch of Dudley Advance will ensure that both local and national businesses reap the benefits of technically talented individuals, as well as engineering and manufacturing employers are ideally positioned to continue delivering world-class goods and components.

Dudley Evolve Mechatronics LabDudley Advance will house specialist teaching spaces and will be packed full of cutting-edge, industry specific equipment for mechatronics, electrical engineering and engineering science, as well as traditional machine tool based engineering and state-of-the-art CNC.

"It's fantastic to see that training in traditional and new engineering skills have such a positive future in the Black Country," Pete Waterman explained, "Engineering is part of our heritage and a vital element of our economy at home and overseas. I'm delighted that Dudley Advance will be open next year to train and create the next generation of engineering experts and manufacturing specialists so we can continue to be competitive, and be proud of the talent in this region."

"The development and continued success of engineering and manufacturing companies is integral to the future prosperity of the Black Country economy and we need to significantly improve the technical skill level of our existing and future workforce," explained Stuart Towe, Chairman of the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership.

"Simply put, we need young people and adults with skills in areas such as PLC programming, mechatronics, foundry skills, CAD and CNC programming, electronic design and hydraulic engineering. A workforce with these skills will allow us to compete in a global economy. We have begun to see the return of advanced manufacturing from overseas into the Black Country. This is a significant opportunity for us to improve the skills level of our workforce."

Dudley College has worked very closely with the LEP and a number of important engineering and manufacturing companies in the region in developing Dudley Advance. The result is a proposal with a curriculum which positively meets the needs of local employers. Employers look forward to working closely with the Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Technology through the development of new apprenticeship opportunities, work placements and industrial updating of staff."

The latest addition to the Dudley Learning Quarter has the backing of educational partners, large employers and government funded bodies, all of which have been eager to pledge their support to this exciting new project.

Dudley Evolve CAD SuiteCity and Guilds, the international awarding body, which has more than 2 million learners working towards their qualifications each year, is sponsoring Dudley Advance as it recognised the importance of the new skills centre.

Richard Hickin, Head of UK Sales for City & Guilds explained, "At City & Guilds we're in business to inspire people to discover their talent, realise their career aspirations and encourage them to develop their skills to be the best they can possibly be. Dudley Advance will have a huge impact on the future careers of its learners and on the industry overall. We are really excited to be a key partner in delivering Dudley College's vision".

NEF: The Innovation Institute has a unique focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) related education. To recognise the excellence in teaching of science, engineering and technology, this professional body has awarded Dudley College membership to an elite network of STEM Assured Colleges. STEM Assured status required the college to foster a high level of consistency in the quality of STEM education and training and increase learners' interest in STEM subjects through visible employment prospects.

Achieving STEM Assured is an incredible feat as there are only 20 colleges in whole of the UK to have achieved this and whilst presenting the STEM Assured Award, Professor Sa'ad Medhat, CEO at NEF, said, "Today marks a double success for Dudley College. In addition to the opening of their new facility, we are delighted that Dudley College has gained STEM Assured status. This externally validated standard confirms to learners, employers and other stakeholders that Dudley College has a thriving capacity to deliver STEM based education and training which meets their needs and expectations.

"Like Dudley Advance, this achievement required a serious commitment from Dudley College's governors, leaders and staff to the standards embodied by STEM Assured. This will be manifested through the outcomes for learners and the sustained contribution the college has made, and will continue to make, to local economic growth.

"We wish Dudley College and all of its learners and partner organisations every success with their new facility and we very much look forward to being part of this exciting journey which they are making as a STEM Assured College."

Dudley Evolve Engineering LabA new partnership with Aston University was also announced on the day. Dudley College is working closely with this established university to provide prospective engineers with the chance to study a range of traditional and innovative courses through to post graduate level, in electrical engineering, engineering science, advanced manufacturing technology and production, hydraulic engineering, product design and CNC/CAD.

"The opportunity to work with Dudley College and its employer partners resonates with Aston University's vision and mission of employable graduates with a strong regional emphasis of widening participation and providing clear progression routes to higher level study."

Lowell Williams, Principal at Dudley College explained: "Dudley Advance is a very exciting and distinctive project and we are thrilled to celebrate the ground breaking for this fantastic facility. There has been a great deal of interest shown in the development by the Black Country LEP and, with the support of our partners who joined us today, we are confident that this further addition to the Dudley Learning Quarter will revive and regenerate the development of high value manufacturing and engineering skills for the region."