They invited key partners and business leaders to tour a facility which will soon be remodelled and upgraded under a contract with Siemens to train all 800 operational staff employed within the new wind turbine blade factory.
And they outlined ambitions to establish the facility as an industry-leading centre of excellence in manufacturing skills using composite materials, to serve industries both locally and further afield as well as acting as a magnet for investment into Hull and the Humber.
Hull College Group Chief Executive Gary Warke, who is also a Board member of the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: “We identified several years ago that the renewables sector offered an enormous economic opportunity for the Humber, building upon our established strengths as the UK’s Energy Estuary.
“We also recognised that putting in place the facilities and provision to produce a local, employable workforce with the required skills would be critical to realising that opportunity.
“Over the past five years we have invested well over £6m in state-of-the-art facilities focused on skills required by the green energy sector. The further investment we will make in this centre is yet another demonstration of our commitment and capability to support the establishment of a new industry for the UK on the banks of the Humber.
“Our partnership with Siemens is the most significant and far-reaching investment yet in delivering the skills to support the development of the region’s economy.
“Together, we will create facilities and training provision that will help to develop the skilled workforce Siemens requires, support the development of other local businesses and industries, and enhance the region’s attractiveness for inward investment.”
Hull College Group is to invest £400,000 to enhance and re-equip the former construction skills centre on Hull’s Preston Road estate, just two miles from the Siemens factory site at Alexandra Dock.
The facility will be renamed the Hull College Group Composites Training Centre to reflect the skills it will develop in manufacturing processes for composite materials, such as Siemens’ turbine blades which are constructed using a combination of balsa wood, glass fibre and resin.
Hull College Principal Graham Towse led the team that secured the training contract with Siemens, which is worth around £1m. He said: “We have a long track record of providing bespoke training for a wide range of companies and industries so, when the opportunity came up to tender for this work, we saw it as a real opportunity for us to develop a new training specialisation to meet the needs of Siemens and other manufacturers.
“We will be creating a mini factory in this facility, with all the exacting standards that Siemens expects from its own world-class facilities. We are absolutely confident we can deliver the high-quality training Siemens requires, help to produce the workforce they need and develop a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship.”
Mr Towse said Hull College Group had long-term ambitions to make the facility a centre of excellence for Siemens and other manufacturers.
He added: “Our vision is for this to be a sustainable training centre, not just for the next 2-3 years as we work with Siemens to train the initial workforce for the Hull blade factory, but, ideally, enabling us to become a preferred supplier to Siemens for the training of operatives from other blade factories across the world.
“We also see this growing into a facility for other manufacturing businesses that work with composites and, potentially, for it to house research and development facilities for various industries.”
The investment will give a new impetus to a facility built for the benefit of one of the UK’s most deprived neighbourhoods under the New Deal for Communities programme championed by the then Deputy Prime Minister and Hull East MP John (now Lord) Prescott.
The centre, which opened in 2007, is owned by the Preston Road Neighbourhood Development Company (PRNDC) and leased to Hull College Group.
PRNDC Chief Executive Geoff Groom said: “This opportunity for training for so many new jobs in a manufacturing facility that is expected to operate for at least a generation is so important to the life chances of residents of the Preston Road estate and those communities around us.
“It complements other local initiatives, existing and planned, that create a real energy, excitement and optimism about the future.”
Siemens’ UK Head of Skills Martin Hottass said: “Hull College Group’s bid was the strongest overall in terms of quality of provision, as well as having the most suitable facility for delivery of the training. They put together a very convincing bid and were able to demonstrate they have the quality of staff and infrastructure to deliver the training we require.
“This agreement allows Siemens to train people from Hull in Hull, within a community-owned facility which was established for the benefit of the people of the city.
“We believe that, when converted, this facility will be ideal for our vital, early-stage training, but there is a much wider benefit for the city and region. The training that will take place here will give people generic skills for a potential career in more than one industry that is local. These are skills for life that are transferrable and open up a number of opportunities.”
Siemens’ Hull Project Director Finbarr Dowling said: “Wherever Siemens operates we seek to contribute to building a skills infrastructure to support the successful and sustainable development of our business and the wider economy.
“Our relationship with Hull College Group is a perfect example of this. By awarding this training contract we are enabling the development of skills that would not otherwise exist locally. As well as supporting our training needs, it will deliver significant value to the local economy and community.”
Humber LEP Chair Lord Haskins said: “We are living in exciting times for the Humber. The partnership between Siemens and Hull College Group demonstrates the new understanding between business and education whereby skills and employability are becoming more aligned to the opportunities offered by the Humber’s new industries.
“It’s a great investment for Hull and will make a major contribution to establishing a skilled and productive workforce.”