The highly anticipated Black Country & Marches Institute of Technology (BCIoT) in Dudley received a ministerial seal of approval when Michelle Donelan, Minister of State for Higher and Further Education, joined Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, at the official opening of the government’s flagship new centre.
Built as one of only 12 IoTs nationwide, the £22 million scheme on Castle Hill has been developed as part of the government’s £170 million drive to develop higher-level skills across the UK.
More than £17m of funding has been secured for the institute through the Department for Education programme and a further £2m has been invested by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).
From left: Julie Nugent, WMCA director of productivity and skills, Cllr Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, Neil Thomas, principal and chief executive of Dudley College of Technology, Michelle Donelan, Minister of State for Higher and Further Education and Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA
The BCIoT offers a variety of technical training opportunities including higher level apprenticeships, degree level programmes as well as short courses designed for people in-work; in key sectors focussing on medical engineering and healthcare, advanced engineering and manufacturing, and modern methods of construction.
In common with other IoTs nationally, the BCIoT brings together employers and further and higher education providers to offer higher level technical education to help close the skills gap in key science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) areas and to help drive technological innovation in the region.
The partnership at Dudley is made up of a range of employers including The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, Thomas Dudley and the Marches Centre for Manufacturing Technology who alongside Dudley College of Technology are working in partnership with private training provider In-Comm training and both the University of Worcester and Wolverhampton.
The Mayor, who has backed the venture through the financial support of the WMCA, was on hand to talk to employers about the opportunities the new Institution would bring for them to upskill staff.
The Mayor said: "Ensuring residents have the right skills to move into the well-paid jobs of the future is at the heart of my 100,000 jobs plan, and Dudley’s phenomenal new IoT will play a major part in helping to make that happen.
“By focussing on key sectors such as engineering, manufacturing, and healthcare, the IoT will be able to help skill up the region’s workforce to meet the demand of employers. This is exactly why the WMCA was so keen to work with Dudley College and other partners to make it happen.
“The BCIoT is a real landmark day for education in the Black Country, and I am absolutely delighted that this key facility is now officially open.”
The Minister added: “I’m so pleased to open Black Country & Marches Institute of Technology, which will play a vital role in closing skills gaps in key areas, such as manufacturing, construction and healthcare, in Dudley and the wider region.
“Institutes of Technology represent the height of technical training. By uniquely bringing together further education colleges, universities and businesses, they ensure people can get the skills they need to progress into better paid jobs, and that businesses get the talented workforce they need to thrive.
Neil Thomas, Principal and Chief Executive of Dudley College of Technology, which is the lead further education provider in the venture, commented: “Developing a technically skilled workforce and providing an even wider range of career pathways for the people of Dudley and the wider region is what this Institute is all about.
“One of the great strengths of the IoT is the degree of collaboration involved. The IoT is bringing together the further and higher education sectors, alongside local employers to shape and design the delivery of courses, in this way we will make sure we provide training that responds to the region’s STEM skills gap.”
The project has changed the landscape of Dudley with the development of a three-storey 4,750m2 building sited on Castle Hill adjacent to the new Metro stop, the Very Light Rail Innovation Centre and the Black Country Living Museum. The IoT will also operate from a central Telford base in conjunction with delivery partner In-Comm Training Services.
The building itself is spread over three floors, and provides technical classrooms, IT facilities, break out and communal spaces, catering facilities and a triple height workshop space.
The scheme is as not only one of the first of its kind as an Institute of Technology, but also only the third project delivered under the ‘game changing’ Integrated Project Insurance (IPI) model, as part of the government’s trial strategy for delivering new models of construction procurement – with the first, Advance II, also delivered on behalf of the College in 2017.
Partners in the IPI scheme included, IPInitiatives, Speller Metcalfe, Derry Building Services, GCA Consulting, Cundall, Cullinan Studio and Fulcro, many of whom have successfully worked on other Midlands projects including the Museum of Making at Derby Silk Mill.
The BCIoT is part of Dudley Council backed £1billion investment in 9 projects which are designed to regenerate the fortunes of Dudley Borough, under the leadership of the Councillor Patrick Harley who heralded today’s opening as game changing for the town:
Cllr Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, said: “This is a momentous occasion for Dudley. We’ve long talked about the significant investment we’re bringing into the town centre, which will turn the tides of fortune in favour of our historic market town.
“And now it’s all becoming reality, with the opening of the Institute today as well as the near completion of our new leisure centre and the significant progress being made with the Very Light Rail and the Metro extension.
“All of this investment will open up opportunities for Dudley residents, enhance the town’s appeal, open up transport links and boost the local economy. Dudley, it’s our time and I’m really proud of what has been achieved so far.”
Following the opening numbers at the centre are forecast to grow with 2000 learners set to be taught at the institute by 2025.