Solihull College & University Centre: Virtual Reality and Robotics Development Centre

In Summary

Company: Solihull College and University Centre
Location: Blossomfield and Woodlands Campuses, Solihull
Project: Virtual Reality and Robotics Development Centre, a new training and education facility
Value of Growth Funding: £188,867
Value of Project: £392,829 (capital project build and equipment)

In summer 2017, Solihull College and University Centre will open a new Virtual Reality (VR) and Robotics Development Centre, supported by £188,867 of Local Growth Funding from the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP (GBSLEP).

Designed to bring together computing and engineering students, the revolutionary purpose-built facilities will help learners to develop vital skills needed to work within the VR and robotics industries. Its range of specialist courses will be instrumental in providing employers with a prepared workforce equipped with the knowledge and understanding to embrace new technologies.

The project reflects the GBSLEP’s focus on galvanising the skills provision in the city region. The Local Growth Funding will help to enhance the region’s practical learning for students as well as forging links with neighbouring regions where there is a high concentration of industry related hubs and clusters of digital excellence.

The opportunity

From manufacturing to creative and life sciences to construction, VR and robotics are becoming integral means for delivering more engaging, efficient and effective projects across a variety of sectors.

For many businesses, location and place are no longer key drivers of operations and having seamless physical and digital connectivity in the workplace is becoming increasingly important. Yet, access to digitally savvy employees is a challenge for businesses across the GBSLEP area and beyond. Some small businesses and individuals lack the talent they need to to apply to the digitally influenced markets of the future.

In the Midlands, the employment landscape is also changing. While the region is known for having thriving industrial, manufacturing and engineering sectors, job opportunities for these semi-skilled manual jobs are declining driven by automation. At the same time, Stratford-Upon-Avon and Warwick have significant gaming hubs – a burgeoning industry recognised for its contribution to the UK’s economy with a GVA of £1.72 billion, and has yet to reach its full potential.

Solihull College and University Centre recognised the increasing demand for market-ready VR and robotics talent and through Local Growth Funding from the GBSLEP has developed a place for industry professionals to provide first class teaching to learners that want to establish a career in the technology and digital industries.

Delivery

The facilities, based both at the Solihull College’s Woodlands Campus in north Solihull and Blossomfield Campus in South Solihull, are designed and equipped to encourage interactive learning and sector specific training. They will be open from June 2017 for staff training ahead of the first student intakes in September 2017.

Key features of the site include:

  • A VR room that will be easily accessible so that tutors and learners can develop industrially relevant projects for internal and external clients.
  • The VR room will also give users access to multiple types of headsets at one time – demonstrating variations in the technology available on the market.
  • Bespoke VR and augmented reality headsets which can become portable giving the college the opportunity to engage and enthuse learners across the curriculum and from a range of industries.
  • Robotics and automation equipment for the development of programming skills

Once open, the site will form a key component of the College’s newly formed Women into Science and Engineering (WISE) hub for the West Midlands which aims to tackle the gender imbalance in science, engineering and technology.

This project will also enable the College to strengthen existing ties within the VR gaming sector. The computing department works closely with a variety of small entrepreneurial businesses such as Voice Mobile, a firm that called for greater focus on delivering industry-ready employees. The College is also collaborating with design consultants in the engineering sector and is progressing an apprenticeship in civil engineering. Through the new Centre, further opportunities will be available to students from all levels of education.

In the long-term, the Centre will elevate Greater Birmingham’s position as a leading specialist for the VR and robotics sector, helping to attract, retain and develop a digitally literate workforce that will be ready for the future.

Rosa Wells, Director of Employment and Skills at Solihull College and University Centre, said:

“This multidisciplinary project has been designed to support a variety of industries across the region and beyond to enable technological developments to be adopted to enhance productivity across sectors. By upskilling new and existing technicians, employers will be in a stronger position to ensure vacancies are filled with talented individuals. Full-time learners will benefit from working alongside apprentices with industrially relevant equipment and a curriculum which is linked to the requirements of employers.”