Contractor set to be appointed to build £8.1 million vehicle centre in Wolverhampton

A contractor is set to be appointed to build a new £8.1 million college centre to keep the car industry revving in the West Midlands.

A computer generated image of the new technical centre at Wolverhampton College’s Wellington Road campus in Bilston
A computer generated image of the new technical centre at Wolverhampton College’s Wellington Road campus in Bilston

The Advanced Engineering and Electric Vehicle Centre of Excellence will be based at Wolverhampton College's campus in Bilston.

It will secure hundreds of jobs and create learning opportunities for thousands of students – specialising in the mechanics and engineering of electric vehicles (EV).

Planning permission is already in place for it to be built at the campus on Wellington Road, with the hope construction can get under way in summer next year.

The move to appoint a contractor is the first phase of the council's City Learning Quarter master-plan after it secured £7.7m of funding from the West Midlands Combined Authority and the remainder from the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership.

Councillor Stephen Simkins, deputy leader of Wolverhampton Council and cabinet member for city economy, said: "Never has it been so important to give our residents access to critical skills training so they can secure the jobs available in our region.

"This is another important step towards our vision of a City Learning Quarter. These plans will transform the learning environment for our students and residents. It will also offer opportunities to access a new high-end workforce within our city, especially in Bilston.

"We are working hard with Wolverhampton College to ensure we not only deliver a vibrant education hub where we improve the city’s learning, apprenticeship and employment offers, but also that we retain our best talent, rather than losing people to different parts of the region.

"The new facilities at Bilston and in the city centre are all part of the wider investment across the city and I have every confidence that when our plans become a reality, we will be creating an environment where everyone can flourish."

The technical centre has been designed for engineering and motor vehicle studies – focusing on new electric, hybrid and traditional vehicles, and will include MOT bay teaching spaces, CAD and robotics facilities.

It will also deliver a multi-skilled flexible workforce addressing skills shortages in the city. Almost 5,500 learners and 954 apprenticeships are forecast over the first 10 years of the new centre.

The two-storey technical centre at the Bilston site will feature workshops for engineers, motor vehicle studies and welding, while there will also be ICT classrooms and general teaching areas. Currently, the campus is home to construction and sports courses.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, chairman of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), said: "With many people having lost their job or left worrying about their future because of the pandemic, it is absolutely critical that we help re-train our workforce and equip local people with the skills employers need.

"Training is at the heart of my 100,000 jobs plan, and it is important that we are moving people into the good quality jobs of the future, which means training workers in the likes of green technology, health and social care, and construction. Through our devolved adult education budget we’re able to work with colleges to do exactly that, and City of Wolverhampton College’s new technical centre – which we have helped fund – is a brilliant example of the work we are doing.

"By working in partnership with local authorities across the West Midlands we are enabling local people to enjoy a rewarding career whilst providing a highly skilled workforce for our region’s businesses."

Phase two of the City Learning Quarter master-plan will see a new city centre campus built, subject to further funding bids. The courses the purpose-built Bilston technical centre will host are not suitable for the proposed city centre location.

Malcolm Cowgill, college principal and chief executive, said: “The West Midlands Combined Authority has agreed to fund a significant part of our campus transformation project and this is a great example of partnership working to support the local and regional economic recovery.

"The college has ambitious plans to transform the student environment and this is the first stage of the planned development – it will provide first class facilities in key areas of employment allowing people from Wolverhampton and beyond to gain the skills and knowledge required to succeed."

The green light for the technical centre scheme is now subject to approval by the council’s cabinet resources panel on Wednesday next week.

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