12 Oct 2023

Work has begun to erect the steel framework on a new £8.1 million City of Wolverhampton College training facility as part of the City Learning Quarter vision.

Contractors Speller Metcalfe have completed the piling and foundation works and once the steel framework is installed, the ground and first floor slabs will be poured, block work for the external walls will be laid, the building will be clad, and the roof installed to make it watertight.

It is another major step forward in the development of the college’s Advanced Technology and Automotive Centre on its Wellington Road campus in Bilston.

Due to be completed in July 2024, it 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).

It is phase one of the Council’s City Learning Quarter masterplan and will be 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 10 years of the centre.

The City Learning Quarter programme will also see a new city centre campus built in a second phase of works due to start later this year – paving 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.

City of Wolverhampton Council Leader, Councillor Stephen Simkins, said: “The City Learning Quarter remains 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.”

Pete Merry, deputy chief executive at City of Wolverhampton College, said: “The start of the installation of the steel framework is a major step forward in the construction of our Advanced Technology and Automotive Centre and the relocation of our automotive and engineering workshops from the Paget Road campus in Compton.

“The new 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.”

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and Chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority, said: “This fantastic new facility will be a UK centre of excellence for the automotive industry as it moves towards electric and other low carbon alternatives.

“As we make progress towards our #WM2041 net zero commitment, we’re generating the high-tech jobs of the future and thereby creating opportunities for young people in the Black Country – with the Advanced Technology and Automotive Centre right on their doorstep.

“This centre will equip local people with the skills they need to succeed in these new industries. I cannot wait to see lives changed for the better in the months and years ahead.”

Phase 2 of the City Learning Quarter will be 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.

The council and college have progressed final design work with contractor McLaughlin & Harvey and site preparation, service diversion and infrastructure works have been undertaken.

An announcement on when full works on the city centre college site will start will be made in due course, with the aim that the scheme is now completed in September 2025.

It remains a key priority 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 £5million from the Towns Fund, £20million from the Levelling Up Fund and a further £22million from the Department for Education for the scheme.