The Marches LEP has awarded three contracts worth £2.81m to develop Advanced Manufacturing Hubs in the region which will create nearly 2,700 apprenticeships.
As part of the private sector-led LEP’s plans for tackling the skills gap, the project will see regional training centres, in Bridgnorth, Shrewsbury and Hereford, set up to support employers in areas where there is limited access to workforce training.
The contracts were awarded following an open competitive tender process.
The largest contract, at more than £1.9m, has been awarded to the Marches Centre of Manufacturing and Technology CIC, a consortium which includes Shropshire employers Grainger & Worrall, Classic Motor Cars Ltd and Salop Design & Engineering and training specialist In-Comm Training.
The Shrewsbury Colleges Group has been awarded £425,166 to develop a ‘hub and spoke’ model of training provision, supporting 183 businesses and more than 450 apprenticeships.
Herefordshire and Ludlow College, with Herefordshire & Worcestershire Training Association has secured £464,763 to develop the third centre, creating 260 apprenticeships and supporting 225 businesses.
As well as apprenticeships, all three hubs will deliver more than 1,960 additional qualifications over the next five years.
Graham Wynn, Chairman of the Marches LEP, said: "We have a need across the Marches to ensure there are enough of the right people with the right skills to meet the demand of our employers. It is vitally important that they remain invested here, and continue to grow their business here.
"But this can only happen with additional capital investment. We developed this project to support the manufacturing sector to develop its skills base, equipping them to maximise future opportunities."
Chris Greenough, commercial director of Salop Design said: "The key issue facing our sector is there is simply not enough people with the right skills, to do the jobs we need them to do in order to grow manufacturing businesses, the sector and ultimately the UK economy.
"The Marches LEP has developed a project which will see industry take the lead in training its own workforce. Our employer-led consortium is delighted to have secured this contract and look forward to delivering apprenticeship placements, training opportunities and supporting hundreds of businesses. Our aim is clear, 2020 learners by 2020."
Ian Peake, Principal & Chief Executive of Herefordshire & Ludlow College, said:
"This significant LEP and College co-investment to develop Advanced Manufacturing Hubs in the Marches will have a transformative impact on education and skills development in engineering, strengthening the college’s capacity to meet the requirements of cutting edge industries."
Lyn Surgeon, Principal of Shrewsbury College, added: "The project has cemented the relationship between Shrewsbury College, Shrewsbury Sixth Form College, Staffordshire University, Caterpillar and Festo, which will be collectively known as the Shropshire Advanced Manufacturing Skills Hub.
"It allows us to significantly extend our investment in state of the art equipment to suitably train the engineers of tomorrow and puts the college in the position of being able to offer a range of full time and part time courses from basic introductory levels through to degrees, apprenticeships from intermediate through to higher levels and bespoke training to meet individual company needs."
The training centres are due to open in 2017. Funding for the project was awarded to the LEP via its initial Growth Deal for skills capital projects.