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Black Country Skills Factory transforming skills in the High Value Manufacturing Sector

Launched in July 2013, the Black Country Skills Factory is an employer-led project supported by government funding whose aim is to address the skills shortages in the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) sector in the Black Country, the only scheme of this kind across the UK to focus specifically on the HVM sector.

To-date the Skills Factory has worked with 23 Black Country HVM companies to provide bite-sized training modules to address the skills shortages in the sector and up-skill the existing workforce; supported 28 HVM SMEs in taking on engineering Apprentices providing wage subsidies of up to £1500 per Apprentice and investment in the sector of approximately £33,000; and worked in partnership with the Manufacturing Institute to deliver a Skills Challenge for approximately 100 pupils aged 13 and 14 aimed at inspiring young people to choose careers in manufacturing.

Building on successes and impact in the sector to-date, the Skills Factory has launched its Level 3 Engineering Apprenticeship Progression Subsidy through which it hopes the industry will see an uptake of higher level and advanced apprentices within the Black Country.  A third phase of 24 different bite-sized courses has been launched in January 2014 covering topics such as CNC Milling Machines, Hydraulic and Pneumatic courses as well as Metallurgy for Non Metallurgists. The Skills Factory will continue to work alongside companies to broker a wide range of bespoke courses specific to their requirements.

The successful Skills Challenge programme will be rolled out across the Black Country in partnership with Education Business Partnerships. Schools in Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton will take part in hands-on manufacturing activities to get an idea of the skills required for the HVM industry and teachers will have the opportunity for short placements in industry.  In addition to this, the project will be producing a careers map and various ‘apps’ for young people and their parents to enable them to visualise the different career pathways within the industry. 

Colin Parker, Project Director, The Black Country Skills Factory said: "The last six months have seen the Skills Factory make a real impact with employers in HVM in the Black Country in our shared aim of reducing the skills shortages in the engineering and manufacturing sector. As we continue to see growth across the sector, particularly in the Black Country, we will continue working with companies throughout 2014 to ensure we are supporting the creation of a suitably skilled work force that directly plugs any skills gaps.”

Stewart Towe, Chair of the Black Country LEP, said: "The Black Country leads the way as England’s largest concentration of high value manufacturing, the Black Country Skills Factory is the only project in the UK with a specific focus to address the skills shortage across the sector. It is this kind of targeted focus that will continue to drive and support the economic transformation of the Black Country with the area in prime position to make the most of its manufacturing infrastructure and skilled workforce.”

For further information on the Black Country Skills Factory, visit: or contact Colin Parker on 07944 268709 / Jacki Lakin on 07944 268712.

To find out more follow on Twitter: @BCSkillsFactory.

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