The MCMT complex in Bridgnorth is a fully equipped, advanced training hub for apprentices.

To plug the skills gap and help manufacturers grow, the Marches Centre of Manufacturing & Technology is inspiring a new generation of engineers.

Matt Snelson, MD of the Marches Centre of Manufacturing Technology

Just over two years ago, the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) hosted the inaugural meeting of the advanced manufacturing companies at the Bridgnorth facility of Grainger & Worrall, a leading provider of high-precision casting technologies. During the meeting, executives from the major Shropshire-based engineering companies came to the conclusion that there was an over-arching skills gap in the region’s existing and future workforce.
The consensus was that, if they didn’t do something different, they would simply cannibalise each other, chasing a smaller pool of talent. From this meeting, the Marches Centre of Manufacturing & Technology (MCMT) was born, led by MD Matt Snelson.

From humble beginnings

The LEP conducted a broader survey of SMEs and the message was just as clear: engineering needs additional skills. The LEP had £2.9m of funding available, to be allocated to the advanced manufacturing sector.

“The MCMT put together a coalition of four companies: Grainger & Worrall, Classic Motor Cars, Salop Design and Engineering, and training provider In-Comm,” Snelson explains. “We wrote a tender, put in a bid and, after lengthy negotiations, signed the contract to receive £1.9m of funding support as a service contract from the LEP, provided we matched funding.”
As well as support from the LEP, the MCMT has gained funding from the European Regional Development Fund, Shropshire Council and private investment and equipment sponsorship. The MCMT’s new 36,000-square-foot training hub in Bridgnorth is now equipped with 15 fitting benches, 15 lathes, 15 mills, a full CNC suite, a metrology bay with CMM and Romer laser arm, four vehicle ramps, 15 weld bays, 15 electrical bays, and a materials test facility.

Training and apprenticeships

One of the key elements of the MCMT strategy is the development of new talent through its apprenticeship schemes. The MCMT’s partner, In-Comm, trains more than 400 apprentices every year at its academies in Aldridge and Shrewsbury, providing apprenticeships and vocational opportunities that match the specific needs of the employer.
“We’ve launched trailblazer apprenticeships in machining, technical support, mechatronics, and maintenance, plus a light vehicle course,” Snelson says. “We’re also developing a new trailblazer in heritage engineering to support the sectors of classic vehicle, marine, steam, and aero. We hope to have this course running in the New Year.

“We’ve encouraged companies that have never taken apprentices to take on learners, and youngsters who haven’t considered an engineering career to take the apprentices pathway, with the common goal of increasing economic growth in the Marches region.”

The bigger picture

The immediate goal of the MCMT is to secure enough revenue streams – through apprenticeship funding, private sector commercial courses and renting out its conference facilities – to make the project sustainable so technical training can be provided in the Marches region for many years to come. It is also in discussion with universities and regional training providers regarding a bid for Institute of Technology status, as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy.
“Our region is entrepreneurial and we have many small businesses, many in rural settings, that have the ambition to grow, and we want to help,” Snelson adds. “This can be through the provision of skills, incubator space, facilities and professional advice.”

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