The Council’s City Learning Quarter vision has been given a boost with £7.7 million funding secured from the West Midlands Combined Authority for a new City of Wolverhampton College technical centre.

Planning permission is already in place for it to be built at the college’s Wellington Road site in Bilston.

The centre has been designed for engineering and motor vehicle studies - focusing on new electric, hybrid and traditional vehicles. It will also deliver a multi skilled flexible workforce addressing skills shortages in the city.

It is phase one of the City Learning Quarter masterplan, which will also see a new city centre campus built, subject to further funding bids and the sale of the college’s existing main campus on Paget Road.

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

The City Learning Quarter city centre site will be built around the Old Hall Street and St George’s Parade area.

The inspirational facilities will also see investment in the building and public realm around them.  They 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.

City of Wolverhampton Council Cabinet Member for City Economy, Councillor Stephen Simkins, said: “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 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.

“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 2 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 Bilston campus is home to construction and sports courses.

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, added: “It’s critical that we equip local people with the skills that employers need – particularly at a time when many are concerned about their future due to the economic impact of the pandemic. And it’s important that people across the region have the opportunities to get the skills required to seize the digital and ‘green job’ opportunities of the future.

“Through our adult education budget, the West Midlands Combined Authority funds our local colleges to retrain and upskill residents to secure jobs in growth sectors such as green technology, health and social care, construction and infrastructure. 

“So, it’s great that we’ve been able to fund City of Wolverhampton College’s new technical centre, which will enable local people to enjoy a rewarding career and provide a highly skilled workforce for our region’s businesses. This is a great example of how the West Midlands Combined Authority is working in partnership with local authorities across the region to benefit our citizens.” 

Malcolm Cowgill, College Principal and Chief Executive, said: “The West Midlands Combined Authority have agreed to fund a significant part of our campus transformation project. This is a great example of partnership working to support the local and regional economic recovery. 

“The College has ambitious plans to transform our student environment, and this is the first stage of the planned development. Our Wellington Road site will provide first class facilities in key areas of employment allowing Wolverhampton residents to gain the skills required to flourish in the Advanced Engineering, Electric Vehicles and Green Technology sectors."

In addition to the new facilities 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.

The city centre campus’ close proximity to the new £150 million transport interchange will make it easily accessible. It will also boast environmental benefits in line with 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 the city’s air will be cleaner due to 310kg of NOX particles not being discharged into the city.

The exciting proposals for the City Learning Quarter have been supported by an initial £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 announced last week that it has bid for £20 million from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund to help deliver the City Learning Quarter vision.