A pioneering skills hub launched by Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership to improve peopleâ€™s opportunities in the advanced manufacturing and engineering sector has boosted the skills of hundreds of local people in its first year.
Training programmes have been operating in Tamworth, Newcastle and Stoke since October last year, providing courses that employers say will provide them with the workforce they need, in addition to improving peopleâ€™s career prospects.
The hub, delivered by Staffordshire County Council on behalf of the LEP, has seen the Tamworth â€˜spokeâ€™ of the hub set up by South Staffordshire College. The county council invested Â£1million to transform the former Torc vocational centre, with a further Â£1million in Government funding. Courses are also provided at the town campus and cover construction, electrical installation, motor vehicle and engineering provision.
In Newcastle, independent training provider Martec has seen 120 people learning hybrid and electric car engineering in the first year. A dedicated learning area has been set up to deliver the courses and the hybrid technology is also being offered to local businesses in the sector to enhance the skills of their employees. Both Tamworth and Newcastle are linking with businesses to provide routes into employment for the trainees. Since the hub was launched, Martec and South Staffordshire College have been working together to share expertise. A third spoke is operating at Stoke-on-Trent College, which is training apprentices from car manufacturer Bentley.
South Staffordshire College apprentice Jamie Kreutz is employed by local business Percy Lane Products. The Tamworth company manufactures powered and manual door systems, aluminium fabrications and windows. Jamie, who began his apprenticeship in 2012 and is shortly to complete his qualification, now plans to continue onto the new Higher Apprenticeship in engineering being offered in September.
Neil Greenhalgh, director of design at Percy Lane Products, said: â€œI found the course content to be very beneficial in Jamieâ€™s development, providing him with key engineering skills and knowledge that has seen him become a valuable member of my engineering team. The continuation of his studies will further his knowledge and I hope over the next two or three years as he gains more experience and matures in the work environment, he will have a long and prosperous career with us.â€
Chief executive principal at South Staffordshire College Graham Morley said: â€œWeâ€™re delighted to see that the investment into our AME hub spoke is having such a positive impact on both the lives of individual students and also the businesses within their local community. We are also delighted to report that we now have nearly 50 engineering apprenticeships and our applications to our college engineering courses have increased by over 200% and the hub has only been operational since October 2014. The new equipment provided through the AME hub has really helped us generate a great deal of interest in these important subjects.â€
Nissan outlet employee Andrew Ryder is a trainee at Martec. He said: â€œHaving spent two years at Martec training doing light vehicle maintenance, I was asked to take part in a new course which involved hybrid vehicles. As the company I work for has a fully electric vehicle in its range, I jumped at the chance to get involved. I had some idea on how these vehicles operated but the course gave me a greater insight. Martec Training has given me lots of help and support.â€
Tracey Marson, director at Martec, said: â€˜The AME Hub has made it possible for Martec to deliver forward thinking training in an ever changing motor vehicle Industry. Through investment in new hybrid and electric car training equipment, both individuals and employers from all types of garages are able to train in new technologies to ensure their business stays at the forefront in a competitive industry.â€™
Staffordshire County Councilâ€™s learning and skills leader Ben Adams said: â€œThe skills hub has had an immediate impact in Staffordshire â€“ delivering skills provision to local people that businesses tell us they need. There are growing employment opportunities in our key sectors in Staffordshire and it is important our workforce can make the most of them. We know the demand from employers will increase and so it is good to know that more local businesses will benefit from the hub by taking on new employees, apprentices or work placements. The different spokes of the hub will also become established training facilities for businesses wanting to upskill their existing workforce. Iâ€™m encouraged to see the training providers are working together which will further benefit people on the courses. Over the next few months weâ€™ll be announcing the next phase of the hub with additional spokes around the county.â€