A £4m state-of the-art training hub has been officially opened today, with bosses urging other manufacturers to step forward to help improve the skills in the local workforce.
The Marches Centre of Manufacturing & Technology (MCMT), which is run by a consortium of Classic Motor Cars, Grainger & Worrall, In-Comm Training and Salop Design & Engineering, was unveiled in front of 250 people with many delegates receiving their first glimpse of the 36,000 sq ft facility.
Peter Neumark, Chairman of the Employee Ownership Trust that runs CMC, said: "I am immensely proud that CMC is one of the four founding stakeholders in the Marches Centre of Manufacturing & Technology. This is the first time in the UK that companies with serious skills gap needs have developed a training facility to meet those needs.
"Working with the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the local authority, over £4 million have been injected into this state-of-the-art centre to inspire a new generation of young engineers. At its heart will be apprenticeships in Heritage Engineering covering all aspects of car restoration."
Nigel Woodward, Managing Director at Classic Motor Cars, said: “I see the Marches Centre of Manufacturing & Technology as absolutely key to the future of not only our business, but of engineering and manufacturing in this area. For too long, SMEs have either relied on government or indeed had no plan at all when it came to training the next generations of engineers and technicians.
"Our investment in the MCMT marks a step change for our industry and one that I hope other classic specialists will follow.”
CMC apprentices Tom Harper (17) from Telford, Harry Ruffell-Hazel (17) from Bridgnorth and Jacob Bathurst (17) from Shrewsbury are currently receiving training at the MCMT, studying for their IMI Level 2 Diploma in Light Vehicle Maintenance and Repair Competence.
Tom Harper said: “Being taken on by the MCMT and being given an apprenticeship by CMC is a dream come true for me. I have always had an interest in classic Jaguars and many of my family work at Jaguar Land Rover.
“While studying for my A levels at college I was trying to work out how I could combine my interest in classic cars, learn the traditional skills that will keep them on the road and gain a qualification. The combination of the apprenticeship at CMC and gaining a recognised qualification at the MCMT is just what I was looking for.”
MCMT Managing Director Matthew Snelson used the event to issue a rallying call for more firms to work together in a bid to stop ‘cannibalising’ the pool of industry talent in the UK.
He believes the MCMT offers a perfect blueprint for other companies to follow after it secured £1.9m of Government Growth Deal funding via the Marches LEP and backing from Shropshire Council to create specialist training opportunities for apprentices and existing workers.
“If we continue to sit back and wait for others to solve the skills gap then we’re going to fall short of where we need to be in terms of skills and productivity in UK manufacturing,” explained Matthew.
“We need to flood the market with new talent and ensure there are enough individuals to satisfy the growth expectations of industry. You only have to look at the West Midlands to see how firms are being held back due to a lack of key skills, both at the new recruits stage and with their existing workforces.”
He continued: “We have an urgent need for more skilled labour and that is where we come in by creating a dedicated centre that will deliver more than ‘2020 learning opportunities by 2020’.
“This didn’t happen overnight. The four companies involved hatched the plan more than eighteen months ago and it was only through their own investment and the backing of the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership and other partners that the vision has turned into reality.”
The Marches Centre of Manufacturing & Technology is housed in a 36,000 sq ft site on the Stanmore Industrial Estate in Bridgnorth.
An old storage facility for Grainger & Worrall has been transformed into the modern centre,
which provides a high-tech environment for individuals to learn from engineering experts on the latest technology – all geared towards giving them opportunities to apply their new found skills on real life manufacturing situations.
It is equipped with over £2m of state-of-the-art equipment, including dedicated fabrication, foundry, lathe, metrology, milling, robotics and vehicle trimming sections.
There is also a 200-seat auditorium, smaller break-out classrooms and a CNC Zone that is full of 3-axis and 5-axis machines donated by the Engineering Technology Group.
Graham Wynn OBE, Chairman of the Marches LEP, said: “Employers know best the skills issues they face and the employment needs of their workforces. MCMT is a fantastic example of a private-sector led project to develop the next generation of engineers working within the Midlands Engine.”
Philip Dunne, Minister of State for Health and MP for Ludlow, marked the official opening by cutting out a MCMT logo on one of the machines in the centre. He added his support:
“This is an outstanding resource for South Shropshire, providing state-of-the-art engineering equipment to train young people to become the highly skilled engineers and product designers of the future. The MCMT is an excellent example of local employers, supported by the Marches LEP and central government, investing in skills through apprenticeships for local school leavers to help sustain local businesses in Shropshire for generations to come.”
The MCMT has already recruited 21 apprentices for trailblazer apprenticeships in machining, technical support, mechatronics, maintenance and light vehicles.
Eight local employers are already sending individuals to the centre, where they will spend five days per week – for 18 months – learning from expert trainers on technology that few of their peers will have access to.
Future plans include the launch of a heritage engineering apprenticeship to support the classic vehicle, marine, stream and aerospace sectors, not to mention the roll-out of incubation space and the MCMT Engineering Club.
In addition to the LEP backing, the Marches Centre of Manufacturing & Technology has also received funding from a Marches redundant building grant and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), not to mention industry backing from FBC Manby Bowdler, Filtermist, Halter, Hexagon Metrology, Mastercam, Mechatronics and Zwick Roell Group.
For further information, please visit www.mcmt.co.uk or follow @marchescentre on twitter.
Richard Homden, Managing Director of Salop Design & Engineering: “For all businesses in the region to grow, we need a completely connected, joined-up view of skills provision. That is what we have achieved at the MCMT- companies working together and teaming up with a training provider to make sure we train the next generation in the skills we all actually need.
“This will enable individuals to take on fulfilling jobs, that become long-term, secure careers. By looking to the future of advanced manufacturing, and having the skills in place to achieve productivity improvements, we have a platform from which the UK can compete and indeed lead the way in the global market’.
Bekki Phillips, Joint Managing Director at In-Comm Training: “We have been championing employer-led training for some time, but this is taking it to a whole new level. With the commitment of Classic Motor Cars, Grainger & Worrall and Salop Design & Engineering, we believe we have created one of the best training hubs in the UK and a blueprint for others to follow.
“This isn’t just a centre for those three firms. The MCMT is open to the supply chain in the Marches and even further afield…anyone that wants to give their apprentices and workers the chance to benefit from the best possible training on the latest technology is welcome to get involved.”
Ed Grainger, Director at Grainger & Worrall: “Grainger & Worrall has supported apprenticeships for all of the 71 years that we have been in existence. In fact, many of our Directors have taken the apprentice route and this transmits itself into the huge value we put on vocational learning, alongside experience in leading engineering companies.
“We have ambitious plans to continue to grow and prosper. Therefore, skills and technical expertise are paramount to making this vision a reality. Becoming a shareholder and one of the driving forces behind the Marches Centre of Manufacturing & Technology underlines this commitment."
Notes to Editors
Local Growth Fund
Local Enterprise Partnerships are playing a vital role in driving forward economic growth across the country, helping to build a country that works for everyone.
That’s why by 2021 Government will have invested over £12bn through the Local Growth Fund, allowing LEPs to use their local knowledge to get all areas of the country firing on all cylinders.
Analysis has shown that every £1 of Local Growth Fund invested could generate £4.81 in benefits.
If you would like some further facts about the Fund, or the wider regeneration work going on across the country, please contact DCLG press office by emailing NewsDesk@communities.gsi.gov.uk in the first instance to request any additional information you might need.