Published: June 18, 2020 | Updated: June 18, 2020

Key sectors to benefit as Dorset LEP allocates £1.3m for new centres of excellence at college

By Andrew Diprose, editor

Dorset’s engineering and construction industries are to benefit from investment in state-of-the-art training facilities for students at Weymouth College.

A £1.36m Local Growth Fund allocation from Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (Dorset LEP) will allow the college to launch two new centres of excellence, in engineering and construction.

£605,000 will be invested in the Centre of Excellence for Engineering.

The new facility will improve the college’s advance engineering teaching capabilities, helping to provide a future workforce that can meet the needs of the local economy.

It will feature a new digital media suite, allowing students to develop computer-aided-design and modelling skills using the most up-to-date equipment and software.

The Centre of Excellence for Engineering is on course to open this autumn.

The project funding will also unlock investment to improve the college’s Electrical Engineering Centre and purchase new machinery and IT equipment for its Centre of Excellence for Motor Vehicle Technology, opened by Dorset LEP in November 2019.

The higher quality engineering training is expected to benefit the wider Dorset economy, particularly the Weymouth and Portland area, offering more opportunities for local students.

The Advanced Engineering & Manufacturing (AEM) sector has been identified as one of Dorset’s high growth sectors and is worth £800m (gross added value) to the local economy, employing 17,300 people.

Unlocking talent to support the AEM sector is a key priority of Dorset’s Local Industrial Strategy.

A further £750,000 will be allocated to the Centre of Excellence for Construction Skills.

The centre of excellence will increase teaching standards and the number of construction students and apprentices.

The project will provide extra capacity by fully re-modelling and upgrading accommodation to support up to 260 full-time and part-time construction students and up to 160 construction apprenticeships per year.

The college will be able to meet new apprenticeship standards and increase specialisms not currently delivered to meet the needs of Dorset’s construction industry.

These include painting and decorating, plastering, construction maintenance, plumbing with solar/thermal pathways and an increased emphasis on environmentally sustainable construction.

Jim Stewart, Dorset LEP Chair, pictured right, said: “We are committed to investing in Dorset’s young people.

“These new centres of excellence will not only enable the college to meet identified skill gaps but will also help young people find suitable work in Dorset.

“Investing in training will ensure our county has the workforce ready to meet the needs of the economy. In turn, this will help grow the economy and bring a boost to local businesses.”

Nigel Evans, Weymouth College Principal and Chief Executive, pictured left, said: “We are incredibly excited about the opportunities this funding from Dorset LEP will unleash.

“Our new centres of excellence will vastly improve our advanced engineering and construction teaching capabilities.

“We have already held meetings with local engineering and construction employers to ensure we invest in the equipment and software that will make our students work-ready.”

The latest announcement comes just days after Dorset LEP announced it was investing £712,800 in three facility upgrade projects at Bournemouth & Poole College in an effort to close Dorset’s skill gap.

As reported on Dorset Biz News, the projects included a £610,000 investment into the Construction and Engineering Project, placing all construction wet trades onto one campus while upgrading engineering equipment to extend the level of training offered.