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School students having a discussion with their teacher
Northampton Waterside CampusNorthampton Waterside Campus
Northampton Waterside Campus
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People talking in a building under construction
East Northamptonshire Enterprise CentreEast Northamptonshire Enterprise Centre
East Northamptonshire Enterprise Centre
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A Starship Robot driving down a street
Northampton College Advanced Engineering CentreNorthampton College Advanced Engineering Centre
Northampton College Advanced Engineering Centre

Northampton College Advanced Engineering Centre

4 January 2022

LGF Awarded: £2.25 million
Total Project Cost: £4.9 million
Delivery Partner: Northampton College
Project Status: Officially opened September 2019
Projected Outputs: 659 additional new learners by 2025/26

Background

The project is a state-of-the-art facility at the Northampton College Booth Lane Campus, which supports learners to develop the skills needs for the most up-to-date construction and engineering technologies. The Advanced Construction Engineering (ACE) Centre will help to train the next generation of builders, plumbers and decorators and teach pioneering new techniques aimed at equipping the workforce of the future with the very latest skills.

The project was designed to tackle a severe construction skills shortage and to build a better future for the construction industry in Northamptonshire and the South East Midlands. Increasingly, the distinction between construction and engineering is becoming blurred; thus, the Centre brings them both together. Alongside courses which focus on craft skills such as brickwork, painting and decorating, carpentry and the traditional trades there are also courses at Level 3 for those looking for supervisory, technician or management careers in the sector, such as in Civil Engineering, Building Services Engineering, or Project Management.

SEMLEP’s Skills Capital Investment has built a new state-of-the-art facility that will develop the future skills needed for the most up to date construction and engineering technologies:

  • Pre-manufactured, modular solutions that require new, dedicated engineering and digital skills.
  • New manufacturing, fabrication and welding skills (in which Northampton College is well established).
  • The traditional trade skills in the context of new building design and manufacture.
  • Embedding of Building Information Modelling (BIM) in both skills and professional training to equip learners to respond to the Government’s UK Construction Strategy.

The Centre is closely aligned with the skills shortage areas and is looking at developing the pipeline of students in those areas that could move into employment and apprenticeships to fill that gap. The skills shortages themselves have been exacerbated by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, increasing the relevance and importance of the project altogether.

The centre features a revolutionary ‘Digital Lab’ featuring a Virtual Reality classroom, 3D printing facilities and industry-standard workshop equipment and will provide a pipeline of ‘work-ready’ staff for local employers, with dozens of major companies, including the likes of Kier, Bowmer & Kirkland, Metcalfe’s and the Murphy Group, already in place as recognised industry-based partners.

Impact

The £2.25m Local Growth Fund contribution is enabling those enrolled at Northampton College to learn pioneering new techniques and skills which will support their employability. The project’s primary outputs concern the number of new individuals into training – for which the project has exceeded the target of 368, reporting a total of 445.

  • The project is expecting to recruit at least 649 additional new learners by 2025/26.
  • Estimated net economic impact of £6.3m.
  • The project has already seen 51 new apprentices (compared with a target of 50 to date). Expected to host 170 apprenticeships by 2024/25.
  • 345 full time construction programmes by 2024/25.
  • Level 4, 5 and 6: 135 students per annum by 2025/26.
  • Estimated to be around 350 further education students per annum by 2025.
  • The project has provided 20 teaching jobs and 12 technician/administration jobs.
  • A total of 1,058 sqm of teaching space has been created, as well as 2 end point assessment centres.

The project virtually hit their targets in their first year due to the popularity of the courses, and are already pushing for more space. There has been significant demand from both students and from companies. Success has meant that they have opened up 2 extra courses at another site at Daventry (which wasn’t in the plan), and add a 180sqm marquee outside to accommodate the expansion of bricklaying.

As a College, they look at progression into further education and employment; the majority of learners are likely to move into apprenticeships and employment. The project aims to act as a catalyst for the sector, encouraging investment in construction projects, and aiming to increase the number of women in the sector.

The College has also benefitted from working with SEMLEP in a number of less tangible ways. SEMLEP can link and bring together wider employers, which is a good resource for the Centre. SEMLEP’s private sector engagement provides added value for the College; local contractors have provided surplus materials and parts, which are relationships that the College wouldn’t have made without SEMLEP. The Centre now boasts over 10 employers pledged as ‘employer partners’ where staff will work with college students.

Impact of Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacts on the apprenticeships side; however, the biggest constriction has been the impact on finding and recruiting staff, which is an ongoing challenge. Moreover, space is becoming an issue – the project is hoping to overcome this with a more staggered timetable featuring twilight working hours, and to use the facilities more intensively.

Next Steps

The College is pursuing an expansion, a further building to accommodate more STEM subjects, plant machinery and electric vehicles.

  • The team are keen to know of any issues early on, they want to get involved, understand it and help. The Programme Management Board meetings help SEMLEP to learn and share knowledge between projects.
  • SEMLEP’s funding is primarily for capital and building projects; for higher education projects, building space is only part of the requirement, as well as staff, training, equipment, and marketing to source businesses, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and the shift to online. Pump-prime funding to engage with SMEs to encourage them to take on apprenticeships and learners, and funding in these areas, might be helpful for some projects.

 

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