ROBOTICS, automation and electric vehicle labs are to be constructed at a North-East college to train the next generation of hi-tech workers to meet a skills gap for national and local companies.
The successfully won £2.75m bid for Darlington College, from the Government’s Town Fund initiative, comes on the heels of a £600,000 grant to develop a business hub for professional qualifications and a hi-tech training centre.
Planning permission is being sought and contractors are expected to be appointed before Christmas and work is due to start in the New Year on the huge two-storey steel and glass facility, which it is hoped will be available to students from July.
The project will see the construction of three new engineering environments – a robotics and automation manufacturing lab, a technical support workshop and an electric and hybrid vehicle workshop.
The development is aimed at filling a skills gap caused by an ageing engineering population and the rapid onset of new technology based around robotics and the growth of electric vehicles.
It also will be instrumental in delivering a new T-Level qualification in light vehicle and electric vehicle maintenance.
Curriculum manager for engineering, design, automotive and the arts Alan Jones was delighted with the news.
He said: “With these new facilities we will be able to support and introduce new technology into local businesses.”
He said robotics were becoming much more affordable for small and medium enterprise and the college would be supplying the essential training companies needed to maximise these new opportunities.
The college manufacturing and processing labs would introduce students and companies to the technical side of robotics and maintenance. On the coding side, off the shelf robots came with predisposed functions that the college training would help employers adapt to their specific needs, he added.
Workshops would also allow students to develop their fault finding and diagnostics skills, with training tailored to the needs of industry.
With the expected boom in full electric and hybrid vehicles over the next ten years, the college development would also provide training rigs to work on the next generation of clean cars.
“Our new facilities will fit in perfectly with the emerging world green agenda, we are thrilled to be at the heart of this and grateful for the support we are receiving from local and national Government,” said Alan.
“This will allow us to ensure our students are ready for the rapidly changing needs of industry at a time when engineering technical support is becoming a huge growth area that is appealing to men and women alike. This type of engineering engages well with younger students so this is an incredible opportunity for our local schools too.
“While our engineers will still need basic workshops skills, by investing in such a hi-tech facility, we are future-proofing the workforce for many years to come.”
Darlington College has been at the cutting edge of engineering for years offering HNCs, HNDs and apprenticeships on full- and part-time programmes. Over the past four years it has also successfully piloted the placement element of the new T-Levels. The college is due to deliver T-Levels in engineering and childcare from September 2022.
For more information on opportunities at Darlington College visit www.darlington.ac.uk.