Welding Institute branch shows support for new engineering centre at Devon college


Hubert McPhillips, Chairman of The Welding Institute South Western branch, attended a launch party for the opening of a new engineering centre at the mid Devon campus of Petroc Further and Higher Education College.

The campus has turned a former sports hall into a state-of-the-art, industry-standard engineering, manufacturing, welding and fabrication technology centre in order to meet local training demands, help businesses prepare for new opportunities and provide engineering excellence for the future.

Speaking at the launch party on 8 November, Hubert McPhillips said, ‘The skills shortage is a tsunami about to hit the country. Currently, a lot of businesses can’t recruit qualified personnel. Having these facilities gives employers the opportunity to stem some of the tide and in the long run will aid the UK’s standing in terms of manufacturing.”

The launch was attended by representatives from the South West’s engineering sector, who enjoyed canapés cooked by the college’s catering students, received a tour of the facilities and tried their hand at the site’s new virtual-reality welding machine.

Investment for the centre came in part from the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (www.heartofswlep.co.uk) in response to developing the skills supply chain for Hinkley Point C.

Steve Hindley CBE DL, chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, said, ‘We’re committed to raising skills in the Heart of the South West to ensure that local people can take up the higher value jobs being created through increased demand, from investment in Hinkley Point C and its supply chains. Petroc is one of six HE colleges across Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay, where we’ve allocated a total package of £6.5m from our Growth Deal funding to create the Hinkley Point Training Agency. This investment is for improving facilities to help these excellent colleges deliver the high-level training that the HotSW economy demands.’

Neil England, Operations Director at Hinkley Point Training Agency, highlighted the project’s demand for skilled workers, explaining, ‘Petroc is part of our network to support the Hinkley project, and we will be working with the team here to make sure we can provide as many local people for the project, and to provide training for people who might lose staff to big projects. We want to leave a valuable legacy for the South West.’

The first students to study at the new engineering centre began their courses in September, and the college is also delivering new apprenticeship standards in both engineering maintenance and welding to provide bespoke, industry-specific training for local businesses.

Petroc’s Principal and CEO, Diane Dimond explained how Petroc is excited to work with local employers to create new opportunities in the sector, ‘I am delighted to officially launch our new Engineering Centre and I’m pleased to welcome so many employers to see the facilities. Our new facilities will develop skills in engineering and digital technologies for the future and in partnership with these employers.’

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TWI is a world leading research and technology organisation with a focus on materials, engineering and manufacturing.