College's new £8.1 million training facility reaches major milestone

College’s new £8.1 million training facility reaches major milestone

25 Mar 2024
Group of staff and students wearing hard hats and hi-vis jackets in the now watertight new Advanced Automotive and Technology Centre at the college's Wellington Road campus in Bilston.
Group of staff and students wearing hard hats and hi-vis jackets in the now watertight new Advanced Automotive and Technology Centre at the college's Wellington Road campus in Bilston.

Construction of a new Advanced Technology and Automotive Centre at City of Wolverhampton College has reached another milestone and remains on track to be completed this summer.

The £8.1 million centre – the first phase of the council’s City Learning Quarter masterplan – at the college’s Wellington Road campus, in Bilston, is now fully weathertight.

It follows positive progress since October by contractors Speller Metcalfe, which has seen the steel framework installed, the ground and first floor slabs poured, block work for the external walls and internal walls laid, the building fully clad, and the roof installed.

Due to be completed in July 2024, the training facility will secure hundreds of jobs in the local economy and create learning opportunities for thousands of students – specialising in engineering and automotive, including electric vehicles (EV).

Its construction is being funded by £7.7 million from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), with the remainder from the Black Country LEP.

The centre has been designed for engineering and automotive studies – with facilities for new electric, hybrid and traditional vehicles, as well fabrication, manufacturing, welding, CAD and robotics.

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

Phase 2 of the City Learning Quarter masterplan – a new city centre campus – is also under construction by McLaughlin & Harvey and will pave the way for the college to move from its out dated Paget Road site.

The courses the purpose built Bilston centre will host are not suitable for the city centre location.

Mal Cowgill, principal and CEO of City of Wolverhampton College said: “We are delighted to have reached such a major milestone in the construction of our Advanced Technology and Automotive Centre, which will play a vital role in creating the industry leaders of the future in Wolverhampton and beyond.

“The centre will enable us to expand the range of courses we offer and give our students access to industry standard state of the art training facilities, which will equip them with the skills and knowledge needed to work in their chosen industries and the qualities employers look for when recruiting staff.

“We are also incredibly pleased that the wealth of learning opportunities that the centre will provide has already started with the build itself. Together with Speller Metcalfe, we have been able to offer our construction students a variety of work experience opportunities during each construction phase of the project, with even more set to be created as we move towards completion.”

City of Wolverhampton Council Leader, Councillor Stephen Simkins, said: “The City Learning Quarter is a key priority for the city, and it is great to see the progress being made with construction on phase 1 at the college’s Wellington Road campus in Bilston.

“The Advanced Technology and Automotive Centre will provide a top class training facility in what is a rapidly growing economic sector, creating learning and jobs opportunities for people of all ages in our city and beyond.

“Overall, the City Learning Quarter will transform the learning environment for our students and residents and see them flourish.

“We are working hard with City of 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.”

Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair, Andy Street, said: “Our region has a long and proud automotive heritage but as the sector pivots towards a new generation of electric powered vehicles we need to make sure local people have the skills needed to design, build and maintain them.

“That’s why the WMCA has invested more than £7 million into the Advanced Technology and Automotive Centre. It will help train the workforce we need to keep our automotive sector at the cutting edge and our region at the vanguard of the Green Industrial Revolution.

“The ATAC will be an innovative, state of the art training facility and I look forward to seeing it provide thousands of local people with the skills to work in our automotive industry in the months and years ahead.”

Phase 2 of the City Learning Quarter is being built around the Old Hall Street and St George’s Parade area of the city centre, incorporating a site on the corner of Garrick Street and Bilston Street, where the former Faces nightclub building once stood.

It is due to open in September 2025 and will establish transformational facilities for City of Wolverhampton College, Adult Education and Central Library, benefitting skills and employment outcomes for residents across the city and wider region.

The exciting main City Learning Quarter development proposals were initially supported by investment from the council and Black Country LEP, and the council has also secured £5 million from the Towns Fund, £22 million from the Levelling Up Fund and a further £22 million from the Department for Education for the scheme.