Around £500,000 has been invested to convert a former construction skills facility on Hull’s Preston Road estate into one of only two centres in the UK which specialise in manufacturing skills using composite materials.
Today, business leaders and the media were given a tour of the Hull College Group Composites Training Centre as it was opened by Karl Turner, MP for Hull East.
Facilities include a “blade school” which replicates, in miniature, the processes within the new Siemens blade factory. All 800 operational staff from the blade factory will undergo their first stage training there over the next 14 months.
Guests were given demonstrations of composite manufacture and briefings by two Hull College trainers, who have themselves undergone extensive training in Aalborg, Denmark, where Siemens has an existing blade factory. They also heard from some of the first group of Siemens staff in Hull who have just completed their initial composites manufacturing training.
Hull College Principal Graham Towse told the launch event plans were being developed for a further £700,000 investment in facilities to make it a centre of excellence in manufacturing using composite materials for other industries and employers.
Mr Towse said: “We’re delighted to launch this facility and showcase the transformation we have seen here as a result of the investment we have made in remodelling and equipping the centre since our training partnership with Siemens was announced last September.
“The training we are providing for Siemens is unique to the UK and will play a vital part in delivering the skills to establish a world-class wind power manufacturing operation in Hull.
“However, this is just phase one of our development plans. We have plans for phases two and three, which would see the creation of further workshops and training spaces to facilitate a significant expansion of our composites manufacturing provision.
“The UK composites market is worth about £1bn to the British economy and composite materials are key to a number of important and growing industries, such as wind power, aerospace, automotive and marine.
“We see a significant opportunity to establish a UK-leading training facility for these sectors here in Hull. With skills so closely linked to inward investment decisions, we believe this could stimulate the development of a composites cluster in the city. We are investing in a skills infrastructure to support the growth of existing and new businesses and the creation of skilled jobs.”
The training centre is just two miles from the Siemens factory site at Alexandra Dock where turbine blades 75m in length and weighing 30 tonnes will be manufactured using a composite of balsa wood, glass fibre and resin.
The HCG investment has revitalised a community-owned facility built for the benefit of one of the UK’s most deprived neighbourhoods. The centre, which opened in 2007, is owned by the Preston Road Neighbourhood Development Company (PRNDC) and leased to Hull College Group.
The training centre and Siemens factory are both within Mr Turner’s Parliamentary constituency. He said: “I am proud to be asked to open the Hull College Group Composites Training Centre that will train all 800 operational staff at the wind turbine factory.
“It is important that, in order to harness the opportunities that come to the local area, local people need to be highly skilled and well resourced. This centre will achieve that aim.
“The composites training centre will be the foundation and focus of the renewables sector in the area and will lead to massive benefits along the supply chain and in local businesses, which, in turn, should create further investment.”
Carolyn Woolway, Siemens’ Head of Human Resources for the Hull project, said: “Our training partnership with Hull College Group is a very clear demonstration of our commitment to support local suppliers, wherever possible. It means our Hull factory staff, who are overwhelmingly local, will undergo their initial training locally, delivered by local trainers and a local training organisation.
“We’re also pleased that our £1m contract with Hull College Group for the first stage training of our blade factory workforce is acting as a catalyst for further investment in facilities that will build local skills and deliver additional benefits for the local economy.”