Almost £4 million is being invested into a skills centre to boost employability in North Birmingham.
Birmingham Metropolitan College is redeveloping its Skills Centre in Erdington after securing a £1.3 million Skills Funding Agency grant.
The centre offers construction training – seen as a major concern by government in the aftermath of recession – as well as English as a foreign language courses for the unemployed and people who are not in education.
The college said the former base was “not fit for purpose” while community leaders say the move will form part of a solution to a skills shortage in the city.
This comes just weeks after manufacturers’ organisation the EEF opened a Technology Training Centre nearby in Perry Barr to boost engineering skills in the area, and similar plans at the University of Warwick.
MP Jack Dromey (Lab Erdington) said the Skills Centre would provide much-needed help for the construction sector
He said: “The plan to invest in rebuilding the Erdington Skills Centre is an important and exciting development, not only for Erdington and the surrounding area, but for Birmingham as a whole.
“The improvements to facilities will mean that we have an exceptional facility on our doorstep to deliver practical and valuable training experience to help equip local people with skills to support the growing economic upturn – especially in the construction industry.”
The existing mix of Edwardian and 1950s buildings which used to be Erdington Technical School will be replaced with purpose built facilities including classrooms and workshops which have been specifically designed to accommodate a range of provision including construction trades as well as training rooms with enhanced technology.
It comes at a key time, after business secretary Vince Cable held a special summit to address the acute skills crisis in the construction industry, which has lost 400,000 jobs during the recession, in February.
As the economy improves, construction needs 180,000 more workers to build planned bridges, roads, housing and vast infrastructure projects by 2018.
However, Government figures show that the industry started training only 13,700 apprentices in 2012-13 – down 39 per cent from 22,400 just two years earlier.
The Erdington Skills Centre currently offers a range of entry and level one construction qualifications for people who are not in education, employment or training (NEETs) and for unemployed adults who are aged 19 or over.
John Starmer, executive director for Estates at Birmingham Metropolitan College, said: “The facilities on offer at the Erdington Skills Centre, especially the old school buildings are not fit for purpose in terms of the training and education provision we offer now.
“We have committed to investing a considerable amount of money, combined with the Skills Funding Agency grant, to demolish the existing buildings and build a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to construction where eventually we hope to expand the courses on offer to a much wider selection of learners.”
Elsewhere, the college has been awarded £540,000 to provide an independence unit for Foundation Learning students in the Black Country.
The money was secured by Dudley Council to create exciting new facilities for young people in the Borough with complex and specific educational needs.
The new functional independence unit will be based at the Art & Design Campus in Brierley Hill where some Functional Skills students studying catering already run the refectory, providing refreshments for students and staff.