City of Wolverhampton Council is set to start the process of appointing a contractor to construct a new £8.1 million technical centre as part of its 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 the mechanics and engineering of electric vehicles (EV).

Planning permission is already in place for it to be built at City of Wolverhampton College’s Wellington Road site in Bilston, with the hope construction can get underway in summer 2022.

It is phase one of the Council’s City Learning Quarter masterplan, after it successfully secured £7.7 million funding from the West Midlands Combined Authority and the remainder from the Black Country LEP.

The green light for the scheme is now subject to approval by the Council’s Cabinet Resources Panel next Wednesday (20 October).

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

It will also 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.

Phase 2 of the City Learning Quarter masterplan will see a new city centre campus built, subject to further funding bids.

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 Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for City Economy, Councillor Stephen Simkins, said: “Never has it been so important to give our residents access to critical skills training so they can secure the jobs available in our region.

“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 and chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), added: “With many people having lost their job or left worrying about their future because of the pandemic, it is absolutely critical that we help retrain our workforce and equip local people with the skills employers need.

“Training is at the heart of my 100,000 jobs plan, and it is important that we are moving people into the good quality jobs of the future, which means training workers in the likes of green technology, health and social care, and construction. Through our devolved adult education budget we’re able to work with colleges to do exactly that, and City of Wolverhampton College’s new technical centre – which we have helped fund – is a brilliant example of the work we are doing. 

“By working in partnership with local authorities across the West Midlands we are enabling local people to enjoy a rewarding career whilst providing a highly skilled workforce for our region’s businesses.” 

Malcolm Cowgill, College Principal and Chief Executive, said: “The West Midlands Combined Authority has agreed to fund a significant part of our campus transformation project and this is a great example of partnership working to support the local and regional economic recovery.  
“The College has ambitious plans to transform the student environment and this is the first stage of the planned development – it will provide first class facilities in key areas of employment allowing people from Wolverhampton and beyond to gain the skills and knowledge required to succeed.”

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 bid for £20 million from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund to help deliver the City Learning Quarter vision.