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ECMS Centre Tour and Presentation

Branch visits new Foundry Training Centre

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Darren Pritchard, left, with Ian Fitzpartrick, ECMS CEO.

Branch President, Darren Pritchard MICME, extended a warm welcome to Members and guests for the first technical meeting of the branch.

The new National Foundry Training Centre, part of the Elite Centre of Manufacturing Skills, ECMS, was chosen for this first meeting as it represents the ambitions of the industry to develop a strong future for founding in the UK by providing the necessary skills for its future management and workforce. Darren then introduced the speaker and host for the evening, ECMS Chief Executive, Ian Fitzpatrick.

Ian began with a few key statistics about our UK industry:
16900 people are employed in 480 foundries turning over £1.89bn.
16% of product is exported rising to 41% from foundries employing 50 or more.
53% of foundries have recently made capital investments.
However most said that one of their greatest challenges is the recruitment and up-skilling of staff.

The Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) in 2013/14 undertook a survey of local industry and from that concluded that the foundry, and patternmaking, industry was a key sector for the area along, with other industries such as forging and pressing. To support these key industries a strategic plan was developed with substantial funding for a training partnership which would be industry-led. So the Elite Centre for Manufacturing Skills was formed with the aim of improving productivity and growth by educating and developing those employed in the chosen sectors.

The lead partner would be Wolverhampton University with ICME and CMF driving the direction of training for founding. IN-COMM Training Services would drive training in tool making and pressing and Dudley College would be able to provide supporting skills and, with its new facility, training in advanced welding processes. The University operates as the hub in this model and the spokes are the National Foundry Training Centre, IN-COMM at Aldridge, and Dudley College. This joined-up approach provides all the additional support that a student may need as their skills, experience and education develops.

By having the training led by industry, each sector can be sure of its appropriateness to meet the needs of the industry. Each centre is kitted out with latest technology, so that students will have the skills to help their companies develop, survive and prosper. The centres will also help companies by providing an apprentice recruitment service. With their experience of looking after students, the centres are better able to find and place apprentices best suited to both the individual and the company.

As exciting as this initiative is, it was heartening to hear about plans for further centres to be developed such as the low pressure diecasting centre planned for Sandwell, for which funding could well be provided in the near future.

A lively Q&A session followed before Adam Fox, FICME, gave a vote of thanks to Ian for both an excellent presentation and for hosting the branch technical meeting. The members and guests were invited to view the facilities before enjoying an excellent buffet provided by the centre.

Any company wishing to learn more about the new centre or foundry apprenticeships on offer is invited to contact one of the ICME team, or Michala French at the new Foundry Training Services Ltd.

Julia Cartwright