EKC Group unveils green engineering centres to tackle skills gap

Posted on 28 Mar 2023 by The Manufacturer

EKC Group has launched the first of two new centres, part of a sustainable skills revolution aimed at supporting businesses across Kent and the south-east region of the UK to adapt to a net zero world.

The Green Engineering Centre and Mechatronic Lab opened its doors for the first time on Tuesday, 21 March at EKC Group’s Canterbury campus alongside a second centre in Ashford. These centres will support a range of new training courses focused on skills that support decarbonisation, as well as a resource for businesses looking to solve a challenge or test a new concept or product.

Both have been equipped with the latest robotic technology and learning tools with sustainable manufacturing consultancy HSSMI supporting EKC Group in mapping out the new facilities over the course of the past 18 months.  Leading sector suppliers for the manufacturing sector have also backed the project including Kuka Robotics, Create3D, XYC Machine Tools and automotive tech-learning specialists, Lucas Nuelle.

State-of-the-art technologies installed at Ashford and Canterbury include a training version of production line six-axis robots that students can programme to pick items as large as a car or as small as a lettuce; production rigs that can scan and track packaging and a 3D virtual reality room, that will allow businesses to map their factory floor and plan for future automation.

Graham Razey OBE, 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.”

EKC Group, Hadlow College, part of North Kent College; and MidKent College received £5.6m funding in 2021 through the government’s Strategic Growth Fund. The launch of new skills accelerators across Kent is the latest stage of efforts to tackle a sustainable skills gap in engineering, horticulture, and construction.

The new green engineering centres launched by EKC Group joins a new Green Skills Factory for the construction sector at the Maidstone campus of MidKent College and a Green Horticultural Centre at Hadlow College. All opened this week putting down a marker for Kent as a leading hub for the green economy.

According to government data, a third of UK businesses do not believe their staff are currently equipped with the skills necessary to achieve net zero. The new centres form part of a broader Kent skills strategy in support of a drive by politicians at all levels for a greener, more sustainable economy and ensuring Kent and Medway is ready for the opportunities ahead.

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