City of Wolverhampton Council has appointed a construction partner to build a new £8.1 million City of Wolverhampton College technical centre as part of the City Learning Quarter vision.

The Advanced Engineering and Electric Vehicle Centre of Excellence 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).

Speller Metcalfe has been awarded the contract to build the facility at the college’s Wellington Road site in Bilston, with construction to get underway this spring.

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, with the remainder from the Black Country LEP.

The technical centre has been designed for engineering and motor vehicle studies - focusing on new electric, hybrid and traditional vehicles, CAD and robotics facilities.

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.

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

City of Wolverhampton Council Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for City Economy, Councillor Stephen Simkins, said: “All the pieces of our ambitious City Learning Quarter vision are beginning to drop into place.

“2023 is going to be a very exciting year for this scheme and I’m delighted we now have Speller Metcalfe on board to start delivering the technical centre at the Wellington Road campus.

“The City Learning Quarter will transform the learning environment for our students and residents, creating top-class facilities where they can 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.”

Mal Cowgill, Principal and CEO of City of Wolverhampton College, added: “Our new technical centre is set to play a vital role in creating the industry leaders of the future, and we are pleased to be working with local contractor Speller Metcalfe to bring it to life. 

“We are also delighted that the wealth of learning opportunities that the Centre will provide for our students is set to begin with the build itself, where Speller Metcalfe will work with our construction students to offer practical, hands on experience during the construction phases of the project.”

Speller Metcalfe has previously worked on high profile schemes such as the award winning Black Country & Marches Institute of Technology and Advance II buildings for Dudley College of Technology, as well as projects for the University of Wolverhampton and the renovation of the Wolverhampton Civic Centre.

Rob Lashford, Regional Director at Speller Metcalfe, said: “This is not only a new educational building for Wolverhampton College, but one that is at the forefront of education by delivering industry standard courses to aspiring students. As a local contractor from Wolverhampton, Speller Metcalfe is delighted to be a part of the council’s journey to realise their Learning Quarter vision.”

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA Chair, added “It’s tremendously exciting to see this state of the art education facility finally coming to life. Thanks to the Government backing we managed to secure, this Centre will change lives for the better in Wolverhampton in the months and years ahead – giving local people the skills they need to succeed, creating hundreds of jobs in the process and ensuring Wolverhampton has a bright future ahead.”

The news comes after McLaughlin & Harvey were appointed as the preferred contractor to begin construction work later this year on the main City Learning Quarter site, which 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 state of the art education facility will be set over 10,000 square metres and will also see investment in the building and public realm around them. It will encompass City of Wolverhampton College’s Metro One Campus, the council’s Adult Education Service and Central Library, creating an enhanced learning environment for everyone as well as significantly paving the way for City of Wolverhampton College to move from its out dated Paget Road site, which has been earmarked as a potential development site for much needed housing in the future.

As well as providing educational benefits for the city, the City Learning Quarter will generate and safeguard 750 jobs in the local economy.

City of Wolverhampton College forecasts that over a 10 year period approximately 45,000 people will benefit from learning at the City Learning Quarter and around 7,500 apprenticeships will be started.

Its central location and close proximity to the new £150 million transport interchange will make it easily accessible. It will also boast environmental benefits in line with the council’s climate emergency agenda.

It is calculated that through energy efficient buildings and traffic reduction, more than 600 tonnes of CO2 emissions will be prevented from being released into the atmosphere each year. It is also estimated that our air will be cleaner due to 310kg of NOX particles not being discharged into the city.

The exciting main City Learning Quarter development proposals were initially supported by a £6.2 million investment from the Council and Black Country LEP, which has enabled design work, site surveys and ground investigations, site acquisition and clearance to be completed.

The Council has also secured £5 million from the Towns Fund, £20 million from the Levelling Up Fund and a further £20 million from the Department for Education for the scheme.