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The Corporation

Posted: 16/02/22

The future of engineering welcomed by business community

A new chapter in automation and robotics technology has been showcased by West Nottinghamshire College – highlighting the breadth of new jobs that are being created in the sector.

  • Extended Diploma students Joseph Colclough and Kacey Gilberthorpe
  • The state-of-the-art equipment was presented for guests to tour around
  • Tutors demonstrated how to control the robots
  • The impressive technology in action
  • Local employers listened to guest speakers at the event
  • Other areas of engineering technology were presented to guests
  • Partner colleges and organisations were present at the showcase
  • 3D printing technology is now on site at the Engineering Innovation Centre

The college opened the doors to its Engineering Innovation Centre, in Sutton-in-Ashfield, to demonstrate its state-of-the-art training facilities to companies and stakeholders, who learned more about how this rapidly-expanding technology is set to benefit local and regional businesses.

The event, ‘Automation and Robotics: Is your business fit for the future?’, was also attended by a host of organisations and training providers who demonstrated their provision along with opportunities available in the sector.

West Nottinghamshire College recently invested £2m in cutting-edge engineering technology, in partnership with the local enterprise partnership, D2N2, and the Education and Skills Funding Agency – part of the Department for Education – who contributed £700,000 and £1m respectively.

It is collaborating with three other institutions – Lincoln College, Chesterfield College and RNN College Group – on exciting projects across advanced manufacturing, aviation, integrated systems engineering, and automation and robotics as part of the government’s Skills Accelerator programme. The partnership also involves Futures, Nottinghamshire’s careers guidance service; and Inspire, the organisation that delivers cultural services on behalf of Nottinghamshire County Council.

The consortium was awarded a combined £3.225m from the Department for Education’s Strategic Development Fund to support the expansion of a high-value curriculum offer that will meet the longer-term skills priorities across the region and strengthen links with employers.

The event, on Wednesday 9 February, saw representatives from the partner colleges demonstrate their provision in engineering, robotics and manufacturing, which will provide new skills and employment opportunities within these key industries.

Engineering tutors and students from West Nottinghamshire College demonstrated its high-tech training facilities that support its new automation and robotics curriculum. These include CNC machinery, programmable robotic arms and 3D printers, which are used by students on courses ranging from the Introduction to Robotics, through to the Level 3 Diploma in Advanced Engineering (Automation and Robotics Engineering), along with full and part-time courses and apprenticeships.

Visitors also discussed the bespoke training available on their own premises using the college's flagship mobile training facility. The college has invested in an electric vehicle that is now visiting employers across the area to deliver robotics training to workers in the engineering sector.

Chesterfield College presented their developing offer in relation to advanced manufacturing, particularly using additive processes. North Nottinghamshire College – part of the RNN Group – introduced visitors to the opportunities available relating to the National Fluid Power Centre, while Newark College presented their curriculum developments relating to the aviation sector.

All four colleges were keen to understand how they can use their facilities, equipment and staff to support businesses to adopt new technologies and become more competitive in order to grow.

Jason Roper from the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce spoke about its Digital Upscaler programme, which seeks to support businesses in all sectors to embrace and adopt digital technologies of all kinds, helping employers to understand their digital tech needs and then develop effective plans.

Andy Dean, project manager for the Automated Distribution and Manufacturing Centre (ADMC), discussed the planned new £30m development, which is being designed to support local and regional businesses in understanding and successfully integrating new technology in order to improve their productivity and competitiveness.

The ADMC is a key project within the £62m secured for Ashfield as part of the government’s Towns Fund – which, together with funding from the Future High Streets Fund will bring over £70m to the district – and will be a national centre of excellence focussed on promoting and providing access to the latest technologies and best practice in automated distribution.

It is being supported by Nottingham Trent University, who were also on hand to speak to guests about their plans for Higher Education courses, knowledge transfer and business support across Mansfield and Ashfield.

Innovation Nottinghamshire’s director Nick Mellors delivered a session looking at the potential 5G has for driving business growth, while Ashfield District Council representatives discussed the support offered to businesses in the district.

Head of the college’s engineering department, Chris Oliver, said: “The event was a great success and saw a really diverse range of businesses come along to discover more about our innovative training facilities as well as the future of jobs in the automation and robotics sector.

“There was the shared positivity that the courses which we are running will very much support the development of aspiring engineers. With new technologies comes the need for skilled people who are able to service, repair and understand the principles of operation of autonomous machinery and robotic equipment.

“I look forward to working closely with our partner colleges throughout this project and sharing our knowledge and interest with each other and our communities.”