15 Oct Elite Centre launched to boost UK manufacturing revival

The new £12.5 million Elite Centre for Manufacturing Skills (ECMS) has been officially opened by journalist and television presenter, Steph McGovern, marking a significant investment in the future of high-value manufacturing and the metals sector.

ECMS is a collaboration between the Cast Metals Federation, Confederation of British Metalforming, Institute of Cast Metals Engineers, In-Comm Training, University of Wolverhampton, Dudley College and the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership.

Based on a Hub and Spoke model, dedicated training centres are now fully operational in collaboration with training providers and professional industry bodies to both upskill employees and train new apprentices in metals processing skills.  The ECMS Hub, based at the University of Wolverhampton’s £100 million regeneration project at the former Springfield Brewery, is an employer-led training facility for industry designed to build on the UK’s industrial heritage by providing specialist training, short courses and apprenticeships to upskill the current and future workforce, helping to close skills gaps identified by employers.

The ECMS Spokes comprise the new National Foundry Training Centre based in Tipton, designed with the support of individuals from the Institute of Cast Metals Engineers and Cast Metals Federation, with advanced moulding and melting facilities which will be used to deliver foundry training at all levels, a new National Press and Tooling Centre designed and developed by the Confederation of British Metalforming and In-Comm Training, located at the In-Comm Training Academy based in Aldridge, focusing on the delivery of toolmaking apprenticeships and technical courses as well as the Spoke at Dudley College focusing on advanced welding training.

Ian Fitzpatrick, Chief Executive at the ECMS, said: “This is a key strategic project for the Black Country which links further education and higher education with local, regional and national employers.  It’s well known that the manufacturing industry has an ageing workforce and that bespoke training courses -specifically matching industry requirements – can be difficult to source.
We have listened carefully to what industry needs, and together with the support of our partners, we have designed manufacturing facilities equipped with world class equipment and where world class training will be delivered by some of the finest technical experts in the business.  Our aim at the ECMS is to give our learners a clear line of sight and a career pathway from Levels 2, 3 and 4, through to Higher National Certificate and Diploma and then Degree Apprenticeships, offering a complete or bespoke training package for the manufacturing sector through both practical and theoretical learning.”

Steph spoke about the need to give parity to apprentices and those pursuing vocational routes, equal to those following more traditional academic pathways, stressing the importance of industry links with schools to encourage take-up of the opportunities that industry can offer. “Perhaps” she added, companies needed to project themselves as “technology companies that make things” as this might be more enticing to young people, as well as reflecting more accurately most UK engineering companies.

Pam Murrell, CEO of the Cast Metals Federation agreed, saying: “We want to enable the development of the future leaders for our industry who need to be able to think on their feet, be innovative and ready for change, but with a good base of technical knowledge upon which to make informed, knowledge-based decisions”.

Welcoming the opening, ICME National President, Trevor Ayre FICME said “The involvement of the Institute of Cast Metals Engineers is vital here – we have the people who can deliver the foundry-specific technical training necessary – the tutors are drawn from the industry and are passionate about supporting the next generation through our new training company, Foundry Training Services Ltd. I would encourage the industry to get involved in supporting this training centre.”

Apprentices will learn off the job at one of the ECMS’s training Hub or Spokes equipped with new training rooms, metallurgy and metrology labs with access to partner training centres and state-of-the-art engineering facilities, whilst being employed in industry, so ‘earn while you learn’.  All apprenticeships meet the New Apprenticeship Standards with a variety of delivery models available.  Courses have been developed, with the input of employers, in casting, toolmaking, patternmaking, metalforming and foundry training, as well as mechatronics, product design and development and advanced computer numerical control and range of technical apprentice standards are available. The Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership approved £8.5 million for the project and the partners have invested £4 million.
For more information visit the website.

Group Partners shot left to right: Ninder Johal (Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership), Ian Fitzpatrick (Chief Executive, Elite Centre for Manufacturing Skills), Gareth Jones (Managing Director, In-Comm Training), Steph McGovern (Journalist and television presenter), Martin Dudley (Chairman and CEO of Thomas Dudley Ltd), Professor Ian Oakes (Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Wolverhampton), Pam Murrell (Chief Executive Officer, Cast Metals Federation and Institute of Cast Metals Engineers), Neil Thomas (Principal, Dudley College) and Geraldine Bolton (Chief Executive, Confederation of British Metalforming)

Angela Mason
Angela Mason
angelamason@cmfed.co.uk