Kent FE colleges invite businesses to invest in net zero as ambitious new skills centres prepare to open county-wide next month
An ambitious skills accelerator programme will not only help businesses of all sizes recruit future talent and retrain existing staff – but develop or test new products and services too.
New learning zones equipped with the latest decarbonisation linked technologies and complementing a suite of new training courses and qualifications will officially launch next month at FE college sites in Ashford, Canterbury, Hadlow and Maidstone.
As well as providing career opportunities for future students these new net zero focused facilities will provide a launchpad for businesses looking to test how automation, robotics and other sustainable technologies can support or benefit their businesses, as well as retraining existing staff.
Focus industries include construction, horticulture and advanced manufacturing with relevance to broader sectors from green energy solutions and food production to electric vehicle assembly lines. New courses from Hadlow College, part of North Kent College, MidKent College and EKC Group will be created in accordance with what local employers need, flexing over time as new technologies develop.
Simon Cook, Principal and Chief Executive, MidKent College and Chair of Kent Further Education (KFE), which champions the FE sector across Kent and Medway, said:
“The launch of these new learning centres, and the partnerships with industry specialists that will design the training and development offered, will ensure that local employers can call upon the skills and best practice needed to transition to Net Zero as well as putting down a marker for Kent as a leading hub for the green economy.
“A third of UK businesses do not believe their workforce is currently equipped with the skills necessary to achieve net zero. By coming together as one, Kent’s FE colleges are seeking to ensure that changes.”
Graham Razey, Chief Executive Officer for EKC Group, said: “FE colleges have always been at the forefront of societally transformational leadership projects, and to be kickstarting a green revolution for businesses across the county is absolutely wonderful.
“Our new engineering centres at Ashford College and Canterbury College will help to develop the skills of the future for our students, whilst simultaneously ensuring employers have the opportunity to test their own decarbonisation plans in a sector leading environment.”
David Gleed, Chief Executive and Executive Principal: “We are thrilled to be a part of this sustainability project within Kent and as we progress, we will be looking to engage with as many businesses as we can and invite them to join us and our FE sector partners in devising new skills solutions that will support career opportunities now and in the future. The opening of our new Green Agriculture Centre at Hadlow College is just the start.”
The new green learning centres represent the latest stage of a government backed partnership launched in October 2021 by EKC Group, MidKent College and North Kent College. Details of what each site will be delivering are listed below:
- EKC Group has used its share of £5.6 million from the Government’s Skills Development Fund to invest in cutting edge robotic, virtual and augmented reality technology and hi-tech 3-D scanners. The new green engineering centres at its Ashford and Canterbury campuses, will not only boost skills in engineering and advanced manufacturing – from self-driving cars to automated production lines but will be ready for new innovations coming down the line. The college has worked with sustainable manufacturing consultancy HSSMI to plan the new centre. Additional suppliers have included: Kuka Robotics, Create 3D and automotive tech-learning specialists Lucas Nuelle.
To find out more, visit: www.ekcgroup.ac.uk
- MidKent College has used its allocation to open a Green Construction and Design Centre as well as a Home Energy Centre at its Maidstone campus providing hands on experience of renewable technologies and low energy solutions plus a simulator that will re-create different scenarios for training purposes, including wind turbines and energy storage. All equipment has been installed to industry standards ready for a range of courses – including level three courses for plumbing and heating engineers wishing to become MCS registered. MCS is the governing body for heat pumps.
To find out more: visit: www.midkent.ac.uk
- Hadlow College, part of North Kent College, meanwhile will be the location of a Green Horticultural Centre, a new state-of-the-art facility focused on promoting sustainability. As part of the project a new sustainable orchard and vineyard that students will use to learn about automated spraying, robotic harvesting and drones has been planted. New technology, supporting the latest methods of irrigation, include Delta-T devices that measure levels of soil moisture.
To find out more, visit: www.hadlow.ac.uk