September 2023

Innovate UK awards £1.2m to University-led West Midlands partnership to grow region’s battery manufacturing workforce

By Anna Fawcett

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University College Birmingham will lead the way in a regional partnership delivering an innovative new project aimed at re-skilling, upskilling and growing new skills in battery manufacturing and innovation.

Following a successful bid for over £1.2m in funding from the Innovate UK Faraday Battery Challenge, the Digital Enhanced Battery Ubiquitous Training-West Midlands (DEBUT-WM) project brings together regional experts from universities, local government and industry to deliver the pioneering level 2 and level 3 training programme. University College Birmingham, WMG at the University of Warwick, Cranfield University and RAVMAC LTD will jointly deliver the project with the support of project partners including Jaguar Land Rover, which starts in October 2023 and runs over 18 months.

Rosa Wells, Executive Dean of the School of Engineering, Digital & Sustainable Construction at University College Birmingham and Project Lead, said: “This project is vital in supporting our region as well as contributing towards the wider net zero ambitions. As a University that develops and delivers education from level 1 through to level 7 (postgraduate) we are in a unique position to lead this project, providing a sustainable training model that meets the needs of learners, employers, wider industry and our region”

The programme will offer an ambitious blend of traditional physical training alongside advanced immersive digital technologies such as augmented, virtual and mixed reality. Learners will be taught skills used across battery manufacturing, repairing, recycling and reusing that will support them in roles such as technicians, production, maintenance, engineering and quality assurance.

“This project builds on established leading regional technical expertise and capabilities, and the use of our digital learning environments will be core to the design of the training programme, enabling learners to navigate the whole battery manufacturing process in a safe and structured manner.”

Mark McNally Technical Director at RAVMAC Ltd

As part of the DEBUT-WM training programme, the partners will target industry organisations, functions and individuals directly involved in battery workforce capability development. This will ensure that the ongoing delivery of the programme is actively informed by stakeholders and ensures wider sharing of the project outcomes and learning.

The programme will also utilise equipment and resources from WMG which is currently used in cutting-edge research in battery manufacturing and the wider electrification revolution. The project will be aligned to the broader National Electrification Skills Framework spearheaded by WMG ensuring that learners acquire essential skills in electrification systems.

Professor Robin Clark, Dean of WMG said: “Up to 91% of all automotive manufacturing roles require some electrification training and the electrification revolution is expanding at pace to sectors such as rail and aerospace. With up to 80% of the workforce of 2035 already in work, the filling of electrification roles will depend on us delivering higher level skills through training programmes such as DEBUT-WM.”

The West Midlands Combined Authority are facilitating the Electrification Taskforce in the West Midlands. The WMCA is prioritising increasing level 3 training in the region, accelerated training routes that respond to changing business needs, increasing flexibly delivered training, supporting increases in workers accessing training and qualifications, championing equality and diversity in the region’s workforce, and working towards the net zero agenda.

“This is a project with tremendous potential - supporting our region’s priorities whilst ensuring local people have the skills they need to succeed and secure high quality job opportunities in the months and years ahead. Together, we can offer the chance for residents to up-skill in preparation for the jobs and economy of the future.”

Andy Street Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA Chair

DEBUT-WM has established the Battery Training Advisory Group (BTAG) to input into the ongoing development, delivery and future of the programme. The project support partnership are: University College Birmingham, WMG, Cranfield University, RAVMAC LTD, Jaguar Land Rover, Microsoft, Manufacturing Technology Centre, Delta Cosworth, West Midlands Combined Authority and the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Institute of Technology.

Find out more about training opportunities and our work with industry at our Department of Engineering.

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