New Anglia LEP’s second Skills Deals project has been delivered, with the opening of Suffolk New College’s new Fabrication and Welding Centre.
The £400,000 workshop and innovation facility was opened by Ipswich MP Ben Gummer on March 31st 2017. It has been delivered in conjunction with and Weldability-Sif, Ransomes Jacobsen and New Anglia Skills Deals Programme (funded by Suffolk Local Authorities, Norfolk County Council and the Skills Funding Agency) as part of the College’s focus on boosting its STEM offer (science, technology, engineering and maths), increasing apprenticeships and reducing unemployment.
In recent years, a number of local employers, particularly those from the engineering and manufacturing industries, have highlighted the challenges they face in finding skilled staff to fill vacancies due to the absence of a state-of-the-art fabrication and welding training facility in the area. Now, following discussions with local industry leaders, Suffolk New College and its partners have created a brand new centre within the £70 million campus – the only facility of its kind within a 30-mile radius.
The centre will benefit students and apprentices from a wide range of construction and engineering courses, as well as those on other learning programmes, including body repair, motor vehicle and plumbing. It includes a workshop with ten welding bays complete with industry-standard equipment, while there is even cutting edge ‘virtual welding’ technology – a computer-based training system designed to allow students to practice their technique in a simulated environment.
Mr Gummer said: “It was really exciting to help open this new wielding and fabrication training facility in Suffolk New College. We are seeing a return to high quality apprenticeships and a reskilling of our workforce for a new industrial age and this new facility is evidence of that progress. I would like to commend the College and the New Anglia LEP and Weldability-Sif for collaborating so successfully on this marvellous new facility, which I am sure will change the course of many young people’s lives for the better.”
The centre becomes the second project to be delivered through the New Anglia Skills Deals Programme, following the opening of Easton and Otley College’s Fabric First Institute in November 2016.
Mark Pendlington, Chairman of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “This new centre is a perfect example of our mission – bringing business, education and local authority partners together to create something with a lasting benefit to our economy. Business told us what it needed and we listened. Our second Skills Deal so far, the Fabrication and Welding Centre will help young people achieve their potential in high value employment and businesses source the skilled workers they need to compete and win in our global economy.”
There are 86,000 people working in the welding, brazing and soldering trade in the UK but it is estimated that a further 30,000 are needed. The rewards can be good with a travelling industrial pipe welder earning up to £100,000.
Weldabilty-Sif Foundation Director and Trustee Adrian Hawkins said: “The Weldability-Sif Foundation was established and registered as a charity to specifically encourage the development of new welder training facilities across the UK. Welding plays an important role in manufacturing and is used in a multitude of different industries including food processing, quarrying, shipping, as well as energy and UK infrastructure industries. Welding also plays an active part in the UK’s Industrial Strategy. Foundation and higher level welder skills training at Suffolk New College is another step towards a full apprenticeship programme designed to meet demand and overcome the current skills shortage in the UK welding industry.”
Suffolk New College Principal Viv Gillespie said: “I am delighted that Weldability-Sif have supported the development of our new training facility in Fabrication and Welding at Suffolk New College. The combination of state-of-the-art equipment and virtual learning software will offer a complete package of training to employers for up skilling their workforce, younger students on full-time programmes, and apprentices working in the industry.”
Simon Rainger, Operations Director at Ransomes Jacobsen, said: “‘With complex fabricated components at the heart of our world renowned commercial lawn mowers, Ransomes Jacobsen was delighted when Suffolk New College announced its intentions to add a new welding and fabrication hall to their facility. The ability to grow well qualified, local talent, with a skill set that can meet our future needs, is essential in continuing to meet our growth expectations. This is good news for Suffolk.”