The West Midlands has received a major productivity boost today, with the launch of a new £3m Technical Academy that will help bridge the skills gap and get the region ready for the next industrial revolution.

In-Comm Training unveiled the 24,000 sq ft training space in Aldridge recently, which has been a true employer-led collaboration with no fewer than 12 manufacturers contributing investment, expertise and input into its creation.

Located in Vigo Place in Aldridge, the state-of-the-art centre has been backed by £733,000 of Black Country LEP Growth Deal funding and is fitted out with world class CNC machine tools, automation, a robotics line, metrology, fluid power stations and a dedicated electrical and electronics section.

It will also house material testing, material handling and grinding capabilities, as well as a 16-seater Mastercam and CIMCO CAD/Cam studio to help students develop their design for manufacturing skills.

“This is a transformational project for the region and will ensure SME manufacturers have the capabilities and skills to remain competitive,” explained Gareth Jones, Managing Director of In-Comm Training.

“The investment will create an additional 420 Trailblazer Apprenticeship places between now and 2022, whilst also providing 1250 advanced learning opportunities. And this isn’t basic training; this is training that will explore automation, prototyping, R&D, operational excellence and real-time data analysis.”

He continued: “This facility will help SMEs gain access to application engineers and state-of-the-art technology, which will allow them to product develop and process map prior to installing manufacturing cells into their factories. It’s the future of skills provision.”

Over 200 people attended the official launch of the In-Comm Technical Academy, with delegates given a guided tour of the centre and the chance to speak to trainers, current apprentices and manufacturers already benefitting from bridging the ‘competency gap’.

They also heard how the vision started with an open forum involving local employers highlighting some of the major skills issues they faced and what technology/machinery they would like their staff to be trained on.

From this initial meeting and feedback, the plan was created and a host of technical partners embraced it, including ABB Robotics, Blum-Novotest, Engineering Technology Group, Hexagon Metrology, Houghton, Hyfore, IMI Precision Engineering, Mitsubishi EDM and Zwick Roell.

These firms have supplied the latest CNC Machines, robotics, pneumatics and electrical controls and metrology and, importantly, delivered them in a way that can be used for training both apprentices and existing ‘skilled’ members of staff on new applications.

Gareth continued: “This year, we are 40% up on the number of Apprenticeship starts against a national decline of 61%. That is a statistic that shows what happens when employers get really involved in developing the right skills and training provision so they are getting young people and staff that are not only fit for purpose, but also fit for the future.

“This Technical Academy will take it to the next level and will ensure SMEs in the Black Country and the West Midlands have access to the workforce and the technology that will make them globally competitive.

“There is a significant job to do to get more firms involved in Industry 3.0 and then we can start focusing on reaping the benefits of Industry 4.0. This facility is open to any company that wants to advance, test, and trial innovation, whatever their starting level.”

Stewart Towe, Black Country LEP Chair, said: “The Growth Deal is helping the Black Country LEP to make significant investment in, and change the landscape of, the whole Black Country. We are delighted to see this new build specialist training facility open to ensure there is continued hands-on skills development across the advanced manufacturing sector.

“By providing the facilities to support sector specific skills development we are investing in our future workforce, who in turn will go on to contribute to the economic future of the Black Country.”

In-Comm has been offering industry and commerce a wide range of training and business solutions for more than 35 years.

The firm has a proven track record of developing apprentices, with more than 500 learners either completing or undertaking their learning at centres in Aldridge and Shrewsbury.

It is also playing a key role in the Marches Centre of Manufacturing & Technology (MCMT), a state-of-the-art training hub in Bridgnorth that is being led by Classic Motor Cars, Grainger & Worrall and Salop Design & Engineering.

For further information, please visit or follow @incomm_training on twitter.