Walsall College’s £11m business and sports centre, The Hub was officially opened by Stewart Towe CBE, Chairman of the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership, on Tuesday 19th January, as local businesses and leaders gathered to see first-hand the range of facilities and services available at the venue to the business community.
The college invited key partners and stakeholders to a VIP launch of The Hub, which opened its doors to the public in September 2015. Around 130 delegates attended the official event where they received a tour of the world-class venue, including the conference, event and corporate training facilities, 40-seat bistro restaurant – The Littleton, state-of-the-art sports facilities and business start-up centre for new businesses.
The occasion also provided an opportunity to honour Chair of Governors at Walsall College, Brian Lowe; in recognition of his service to the college and contribution to transforming the original vision of The Hub into a reality, a plaque naming the venue after him was unveiled.
Principal and Chief Executive at Walsall College, Jatinder Sharma OBE, said: “I am delighted that so many of our local partners were able to join us for this launch. It is these partnerships, which have enabled us to shape the learning vision of Walsall by creating a curriculum that produces students who are a credit to any workforce.
“The launch of The Hub marks a new era for Walsall in defining the future skills needed in our economy. We can now develop these business relationships further and create even more opportunities for our students, which will benefit the region and create a sustainable economy.”
During the event the college hosted a panel discussion, led by Stewart Towe CBE, who is also Chairman and Manging Director of The Hadley Group, on the increasing importance of shaping the skills needed to drive growth in the region’s economy. The panel featured local industry leaders committed to increasing prosperity across the borough, including Director of Learning and Development at HomeServe, Matt Hill and Leader of Walsall Council, Councillor, Mike Bird, as well as Jatinder Sharma OBE.
When asked about where he thinks the borough currently is in terms of creating the conditions for enterprise and greater economic prosperity in our region, Stewart Towe commented: “Workplace skills are changing rapidly, so it’s vital we continue to work together and keep ahead of the skills agenda. Skills development is critical to the continuing development of the Black Country.”
He added: “Higher skills are a continuation of a journey which will ensure learners are well equipped throughout their working lives and that’s where the future lies.”
Discussing how the Council is supporting the skills and health and wellbeing agenda, Councillor Mike Bird said: “It’s buildings like this and the regeneration projects taking place and coming to fruition across the borough that are making a difference to our region; they are putting Walsall on the map by ensuring it is a great place to live, work and do business.
“Investing in sports facilities like these in The Hub are also a huge benefit to residents as it will mean people living healthier lives.”
On the skills that are important to employers, Matt Hill from HomeServe, who have recently recruited 17 plumbing apprentices through the college, said: “Aside from maths, English and digital skills, which are vital to any employer, it is the soft competencies such as communication and presentation skills that you develop with workplace experience that are most beneficial to businesses.
“The Hub is an inspiring venue with some great facilities, which I think will enable students to develop the skills highly valued by employers.”
Completing the panel line up were Laura Myatt, a Walsall College Level 3 Engineering Manufacturing apprentice currently training at Perkins Engines, and Level 6 BA Honours Visual Communication undergraduate, Damian Addis, who both discussed and gave examples of how they are applying vocational skills learnt at college in the workplace and how these are benefiting their employers.
Laura said: “I’ve only been at Perkins for two and a half years but in that time I have brought in fresh ideas and worked on high value international projects which have saved the company money.”
Damian said: “I’ve developed high level skills on my degree course which have enabled me to confidently work on projects for some major corporate clients including Habitat and Homebase. Through The Hub I’m also getting the support to develop my entrepreneurial skills and set up my own freelance photography business.”