A new Birmingham training centre to help plug the skills gap by training 250 apprentices a year has been officially opened.
The EEF Technology Training Centre, in Perry Barr, has seen £2 million invested by the manufacturers’ organisation as part of a push to get more young people into engineering amid a skills shortage holding firms back.
Midland EEF director Richard Halstead said the facility has been purpose-built to offer apprentices the opportunity to train in world-class facilities replicating a real manufacturing environment.
The centre will train apprentices a variety of vital skills, including milling, CNC machinery, welding and fabrication.
Mr Halstead said that while it wouldn’t solve the skills issue alone, it was a step in the right direction, and said getting more youngsters into engineering would improve the region’s wealth profile.
He said: “This won’t solve the problems overnight but just because you don’t get over the Atlantic in a boat quickly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t begin the journey.
“It needs to be complemented at all levels – from encouraging nine to 11-year-olds into STEM subjects and getting more 18-year-olds down vocational routes.
“And there are lots of reasons to encourage this – the average pay in engineering is over £30,000, compared to £26,000 in the service sector.”
The centre aims to replicate the workplace as far as possible, with students expected to clock in and out and work full days, with a traditional early finish on Fridays.
The EEF has been working closely with manufacturing firms on the plans, and will also be involved with the selection process for youngsters.
As well as apprentices and young people, the new centre will also provide development training for experienced employees, ensuring that they are equipped with the right skills for the future demands of modern engineering and manufacturing.
This will help tackle the increasing skills challenges of an ageing workforce, according to the EEF.
Perry Barr MP Khalid Mahmood, a former engineer himself, said it was vital to invest in engineering and manufacturing talent to contribute to the ongoing recovery of the UK economy.
Labour MP Mr Mahmood said: “This is a fantastic project, and a wonderful opportunity to get young people into engineering. Manufacturing has always been the lifeblood of Birmingham, and this ambitious initiative is exactly the type of investment in skills this city needs.”
Terry Scuoler, chief executive at the EEF, added: “Young people are the future of manufacturing – their skills and talents are the lifeblood that allows British businesses to develop and grow.
"Apprenticeships not only fill this gap, but they also offer young people an opportunity to kick-start an exciting and rewarding career, which is great news all round for the British economy.”
EEF research shows that manufacturers are increasingly recognising the importance of apprentices in addressing the skills gap within the sector.
Six in ten UK manufacturers have taken on an engineering and manufacturing apprentice in the last 12 months, with expectations for this to soar to over two-thirds of manufacturers in the next 12 months.