EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, yesterday welcomed David Gauke, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, at its state-of-the-art technology training centre in Aston. Birmingham. The visit marked the official launch of the centre’s new Higher Education offering and allowed the Chief Secretary to see how work is progressing on its ambitious multi-million pound expansion.
The centre opened in 2014 and has since enjoyed rapid expansion. EEF recently invested a further £5 million into it and, as a result, work is now nearing completion on a second new site – the Technology Hub – which will increase the number of apprentices trained at the centre to over 400 a year when fully operational.
As part of this rapid growth, EEF has also expanded its range of courses to include HNCs and HNDs for the first time. The launch of this Higher Education offering is a significant step forward in helping the manufacturing sector to battle a skills shortage and means that apprentices and students at the centre can now achieve the highest qualification in engineering, bar a full degree.
The Chief Secretary met some of EEF’s first intake of Higher Education students to hear about their career ambitions and future plans. He also joined centre manager, Christine Chapman, and EEF’s Director of Training, Neil Withey, on a tour of the new Technology Hub, which has been designed and equipped to replicate real-life modern engineering and manufacturing workplaces.
The Chief Secretary was interested to see the wide range of areas devoted to developing technological skills, including robotics, electronics and rapid prototyping. He also visited the industry standard CAD (computer aided design) suite, the centre’s automated factory and its industry standard tool room – believed to be amongst one of only a handful in UK training centres.
During the tour he was presented by an apprentice – 21 year old Tom Middleton, a HNC Student working for Ishida - with a 3D printed model of Gladstone, the Treasury’s famous cat, created on the centre’s new 3D printing machine*.
Once complete, the new Technology Hub will boast 280 IT stations and £1.3 million of equipment and tools.
In total, EEF has invested £11 million into the centre. This will keep it at the forefront of new manufacturing and engineering technologies, ensuring that apprentices continue to learn both traditional and the most cutting-edge techniques. This will fully equip them for a sustainable and exciting career in modern industry, which is about to undergo a radical transformation as a result of rapid advances in technology.
Staff numbers at the training centre have also rocketed from 38 in 2014 to 102 in 2016 and the centre now trains apprentices on behalf of 93 different organisations, including Severn Trent Water, Jaguar Landrover and Ibstock Brick.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke, said: “EEF’s investment in its Birmingham apprentices will equip workers with the cutting-edge skills needed to keep the UK’s manufacturing sector world-class.
“Apprentices are vital to improve productivity so that companies – and the economy – can grow and prosper. That is why we are creating 3 million new apprenticeships by 2020 and introducing the apprenticeship levy.
“The skills of the apprentices I’ve met today are outstanding. The 3D model of Gladstone is so good that the real-life version will think he has a new rival at the Treasury.”
Neil Withey, Director of Training at EEF, said: “We have been on a long journey in a very short space of time, but we’re delighted with the impact we are having on apprentices and skills for our sector. Today is an important milestone and we’re delighted to be able to showcase the development of our new Technology Hub and our wider range of courses for the very first time.
“The growth we have achieved since first opening our doors in 2014 has been incredible. It demonstrates the real need for quality apprenticeships and training to help meet employers’ strong demands for skills and talented apprentices.
“Our significant investment in creating world-class facilities in the heartland of UK manufacturing shows our commitment to industry and to helping to solve the skills gap holding businesses back. Our expansion is good news for the young people we train, the jobs we create and for the companies relying on us to provide them with the highly skilled and motivated workers they need for the future.”
For more information on the EEF Technology Hub go here.