A planned engineering college could be a huge step towards tackling the region’s skills shortage, it has been claimed.
The University of Warwick is proposing a new college backed by Jaguar Land Rover, Aero Engine Controls and Arup, which have had difficulty recruiting staff with the right abilities.
The university technical college (UTC) in north Solihull is being spearheaded by the university’s Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) and follows a first college due to open on the university’s Coventry campus in September.
If given the go-ahead by the Department for Education, work on the Solihull college could start this year ready for a 2016 opening.
An initial unsuccessful bid was submitted to the DfE earlier this year but WMG said it had now received a favourable response, prompting a follow-up bid within months.
The new college would cater for 640 students and join the 50 or so other UTCs already open or in development.
It would be run by WMG, with Solihull Council represented on its governing body and partners Jaguar Land Rover, Aero Engine Controls and Arup having a role in shaping its curriculum.
Dr Richard Hutchins, chief executive of the WMG Academy Trust, said: “The recovery of the economy is largely being built on the back of strong manufacturing and the engineering sector, particularly in the Midlands, with the resurgence of companies like Jaguar Land Rover but also aerospace.
“For those companies and suppliers to continue to thrive and grow and create wealth they need a workforce fit for the future.
“That is why we are doing this and that is why we think it’s important.”
The Solihull UTC would be modelled on the university’s Coventry scheme, which will cost £11 million.
Mr Hutchins said: “Companies like JLR are expanding so much but they have got an ageing engineering workforce and need young people to come in at the bottom
“Whether they come in as an apprentice or at graduate level they want them to have a broader set of skills in terms of problem solving and teamwork and an awareness of how business works. These schools are designed to give people those.
“They can actually influence the way local children are taught, which hopefully in the medium to long term will mean that the children leaving these sorts of schools have the right skills to fit directly into their workforce or companies in the supply chain.”
The DfE would provide capital funding for the project, as well as funding on a per pupil basis and it and Solihull Council would also provide ‘seed corn’ funding.