Metsec, one of Oldbury's largest manufacturing firms, has set up an apprentice training centre to make sure its young engineers have the skills to help guarantee the company's future.

The £120,000 centre was officially opened by Sir Alan Jones, chairman of Toyota Manufacturing UK, in his capacity as chairman of SEMTA, the sector skills council for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies.

The apprenticeship is a paid, four-year, full-time programme, mixing on-the-job practical training with a range of key skills, personal development and college-based work.

The company, which makes steel components for the building and engineering industries, has invested in the centre to meet its training requirements.

Clive Wolversen, Metsec's group engineering manager, said: "We decided that, as the employer, we were in the best position to design and provide the most appropriate engineering training within the apprenticeship programme to meet the specific skills needs of our business.

"We also wanted to make sure the apprentices felt part of Metsec and under-stood the company's requirements, culture and values."

Metsec takes on five apprentices a year, through the Metals Academy - a division of MetSkill that is part of the SEMTA Group - at a cost of £50,000 each over the four-year programme.

They experience every type of work in Metsec's engineering products and building components divisions before specialising in their final year to qualify for a job in their chosen area.

The apprentices who join this year will be the first to do their training almost exclusively at Metsec. The company has worked closely with the Academy to win formal accreditation to issue certificates to NVQ levels two and three.

All the company's 20 current apprentices are now based in the training centre in a dedicated building on Metsec's main Broadwell Road site.

The apprentices receive day-to-day management and support from a full-time mentor, Colin Saunders, a former maintenance engineer with the company.

He said: "I oversee their training and make sure it's properly delivered in-house. The apprentices' attitude, commitment and teamwork have all improved enormously since they spend much more time on site."

One of the third year apprentices, 19-year-old Luke Groves, said: "We know we're learning the right skills, we know what's expected of us and we feel part of Metsec because they listen to our ideas."

Opening the new centre, Sir Alan said: "The strength and vitality of any company is dependent on the skills and challenging attitudes of each employee.

"Companies which invest in the future by providing development opportunities for their employees are the ones, like Metsec, that lay the foundation for a prosperous future. This facility is a real beacon to the UK's manufacturing industry."