Black Country LEP Backs College Plans for new Construction Centre in Dudley

The Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has included Dudley College’s proposed ‘Centre for Advanced Building Technologies and Construction Skills’ (CABTech) in its bid for an allocation of the Government’s Local Growth Fund.

The £12m proposal for a specialist training centre to support advanced building and construction skills was submitted by the LEP as part of their ambitious bid for £56m to support the Black Country Strategic Economic Plan, which aims to make the area a better place to live, learn skills, work and start a business.

Securing funding from the Government, through the LEP Local Growth Fund, would see the college’s investment to transform the town centre over the past three years total £50m.

Investment to date has funded a new vocational training centre and A level Centre alongside the refurbishment of an existing building into a sculptor workshop and the transformation of two residential properties into specialist centres for students with learning difficulties and disabilities.

The development of CABTech would enable relocation of Dudley College craft and trade skills workshops from its Mons Hill campus into the Dudley Learning Quarter. If successful, development would commence in September 2015, with the centre being open to students Spring 2017.

Plans submitted for the new centre comprise of 4,400m2 of new teaching and workshop facilities which will support traditional skills development as well as emerging sector skills requirements.

 Dudley College has the option to locate CABTech adjacent to Dudley Advance, the new Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Technology due to open this Autumn. Siting the two specialist centres on Priory Road in Dudley is the college’s preference as it brings together a level of skills development and facilities unprecedented in the Black Country and further afield.

Lowell Williams, Principal of Dudley College explained “Our ambition to support the recovery of the construction industry in this country is driving this exciting new addition to the Learning Quarter. With construction being recognised by the UK Government as one of the 10 key sectors driving economic recovery it’s imperative that current and future workforces are trained and ready to meet the challenges the economic up-turn will bring.

“We are delighted that our proposal has been submitted by the LEP and are currently working together on the next stage of the bid to ensure that the Government’s return on investment in CABTech is evident through the training and up-skilling it can deliver for the Black Country and beyond.

“Our plans to develop a centre that can provide modern and progressive training for an industry that has relied on traditional training routes and methods will help to increase employment across the sector, which is fantastic news for all.”

CABTech will be unique as it’s designed to develop and expand training opportunities in advanced building and construction skills with an emphasis on Building Information Modelling (BIM) technologies. The co-location of new technology and traditional craft skills will ensure that the benefits of using BIM technology are transferred into practical construction use, enabling the whole construction sector and supply chain to adopt and benefit from BIM Technologies.

BIM technology is changing how buildings are planned, designed and built. This new intelligent 3D computer modelling process supports the design, manufacture and construction process. It is used by architects, construction professionals, designers and engineers to create a detailed 3D model for new buildings. It allows all people involved with the design and building to work on a shared 3D model that leads to improved building design and more efficient construction processes.

The incorporation of this new technology as part of the CABTech offer to employers is being discussed with major players in the construction industry including Carillion plc, Stepnell Ltd, Interserve, Thomas Vale Group and Wilmot Dixon Construction.

Mark Wakeford, Managing Director of Stepnell Ltd explained, “I am very pleased to see CABTech’s emphasis on this technology and its recognition that, only in discussion with the industry, will it provide the training that the industry requires and promotes young people with the skills that forward thinking organisations, such as ours are, looking for.”

CABTech will be one of the first specialist skills centres in the area to support innovation in construction, by embedding new BIM Technologies into its training offer.

So important is the use of BIM technology that from 2016 the government is making it mandatory that all public buildings will be procured using BIM, which will dramatically drive up demand for skilled BIM operators.