Published: September 2, 2021 | Updated: September 3, 2021

New Centres of Excellence will provide boost for local construction and engineering sectors

Cecilia Bufton, Dorset LEP Chair; Nigel Evans, Weymouth College Chief Executive and Paul Read, Dorset LEP Board.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

Two new Centres of Excellence offering the latest state-of-the-art training facilities for construction and engineering students in West Dorset have been officially unveiled.

They’re expected to provide a much-needed boost for the local construction and engineering sectors.

The new Centres of Excellence for Construction and Engineering at Weymouth College were made possible thanks to more than £1.5m of investment from Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) via a government Local Growth Fund allocation.

Prior to the pandemic, Dorset’s engineering, construction and defence sector employed 29,000 people and contributed £1.9bn – or 10% – to the local economy.

A skills shortage in the engineering and construction sectors has remained a particular challenge for recruitment.

The latest Labour Market Insights released by Dorset LEP reveal a substantial increase in vacancies within these sectors.

The two Centres of Excellence boast new cutting-edge training facilities and workspace, helping to enhance teaching capability and increasing the number of apprentices and students at Weymouth College.

Cecilia Bufton, Dorset LEP Chair, pictured left, said: “Investing in improving equipment and training facilities for key sector areas, such as engineering and construction, is an important part of our Dorset Skills Action Plan.

“It will attract and retain the talent these sectors so desperately need and help local young people find suitable work in Dorset.

“We are passionate about equipping our young people – Dorset’s future workforce – with the skills they need to succeed.

“These new Centres of Excellence provide experienced college staff with the facilities they need to work in partnership with local businesses, delivering higher quality engineering and construction training and offering more opportunities for local students and apprentices.

“This is great news for the college, Weymouth, Portland, and the wider Dorset economy.”

The Centre of Excellence for Engineering features a 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 Construction Skills provides extra capacity through fully re-modelled and upgraded accommodation to support up to 260 full-time and part-time construction students and up to 160 construction apprenticeships per year.

Weymouth 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 construction maintenance, plumbing with solar/thermal pathways and an increased emphasis on environmentally sustainable construction.

Nigel Evans, Chief Executive, Weymouth College, said: “We are extremely grateful to Dorset LEP for these levels of investment which have allowed us to further develop, augment and enhance our college estate.

“We are now able to deliver to the green sustainability agenda in motor vehicles, as well as deliver state of the art provision in digital media and advanced engineering.

“In addition, we have been able to successfully complete a new build to house our construction curriculum, allowing us to provide improved and expanded provision in the full range of construction trades.

“We very much look forward to welcoming the local Dorset community back to campus and to demonstrate how these developments will contribute to local social mobility and skills development in Dorset.”