A new UK initiative from Polymer Sector Developments (PSD) will see the injection of 1.5 million GBP in to the East Midlands to enhance composite industry training and stimulate growth of the regions polymer industry.
The project is being supported by the East Midlands Development Agency (EMDA) who have provided 1.5 million of funding to oversee provision of new vocational training in designated education centres across the region.
PSD is a new company setup to administer the scheme, overseeing the provision of equipment and training at three new educational facilities in the region: West Nottinghamshire College (polymers); New College Nottingham (sign-making) and South East Derbyshire College (composites).
PSD’s initiative was based on a number of industry surveys that were conducted to examine training resources in the area, whilst highlighting also skills deficiencies in the regions polymer composite industry. Findings from the survey enabled funding to be targeted in areas where the regions polymer industry would yield the greatest dividends.
PSD is largely made up of local employees from the polymer, composite and sign-making industries from the East Midlands region where a concentration of polymer and composite focussed businesses have developed. The polymer/composites industry is now an integral part of the regions GDP, providing some 400,000 jobs at companies such as the Advanced Composites Group, Dunlop Aerospace and EPM to name but a few, supplying the regions motorsport, sign making and food plastics industries.
By matching the needs of the industry with relevant training, PSD hope the scheme will catapult the East Midlands into one of Europe’s top 20 economic regions by 2010.
Allison Bingham, Enterprise Development Manager at EMDA said that “the UK needs to develop a skilled workforce that offers a level of expertise that cannot be easily sourced elsewhere. To achieve this, we need the right foundations in place – training courses that meet current needs and are also flexible enough to adapt to changing requirements in the marketplace. That requires not just support from the industries involved but also their input. PSD provides the link to enable this to take place effectively and EMDA is delighted to have been able to provide the funding for the initiative”.
As well as creating the three centres of excellence in the region and helping to develop or enhance existing learning programmes, PSD also wants to promote a greater understanding of the many career opportunities that exist within the composites industry and also emphasise its significance to the East Midlands economy. Its aims are not just to attract new students for new courses, but also to encourage existing employees to take advantage of the new facilities for industry training.
One of the education centres which benefited from the PSD project is the South East Derbyshire College (SEDC), which has seen a brand new 7,500 sq. ft. composite facility created. SEDC received 137,000 GBP from PSD and has invested a further 750,000 to fund the centre which replicates latest industry technology featuring a range of equipment including an Autoclave vacuum and curing oven, along with dedicated dirty and clean rooms. PSD retain ownership of the equipment which they lease to the college and potentially other business in the region that could benefit from the capital for training purposes.
The main thrust of PSD’s investment programme was that the equipment acquired and installed in the colleges reflected equipment and processes already used in the regions industry.
PSD suggested that one of the main successes of the scheme rests upon input provided by the regions industry, which so far has been in the form of donations from companies who have provided materials and mould tools currently being used by students and employees on training courses.
The equipment will help the SEDC to become a Centre of Vocational Excellence (CoVE) in composites training and will enable them to offer a range of recognised industry courses in that will cover a variety of processing techniques that will enable students to qualify for direct entry into it’s rich regional polymer industry. Although the college will feature a number of academic courses, details were not available at the time of going to press.
Although the project is initially focused on the three colleges in the East Midlands, PSD is also developing an E Learning nationwide programme that will enable companies and employees across the UK to embark on further training.
The programme which will be borne out of an initial investment of some 500,000 GBP, will enable students and employees online access to training at any time. Open facilities that will provide training and upskilling of employees in the polymer sector will be provided. Students will be able to log in to a dedicated website from any location, with each courses covering a number of learning modules such as Materials, Health & Safety and Processing.
The course will provide nationally recognised qualifications such as NVQ’s and other vocationally related qualifications. Prices for the courses, which have been devised by sector specialists in consultation with the sector Awarding Body are believed to cost less than £400 per candidate which also includes an online dedicated tutor.
The East Midlands Development Agency set up in 1999 is one of 9 Regional Development Agencies in England. Their role is to champion the region’s economy and its development by increasing business competitiveness, developing people’s skills and regenerating local communities.
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