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Advanced Materials Centre First of its Kind in Wales

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Coleg Gwent welcomed companies including Zodiac Aerospace Ltd, GKN Aerospace and British Airways to the opening of its Dennison Advanced Materials Centre, the first of its kind in Wales.

Economy Secretary, Ken Skates, officially opened the new centre at Coleg Gwent’s Blaenau Gwent Learning Zone to an audience of 50 delegates from neighbouring engineering companies.

The centre is named after Jon Dennison, who sadly died in 2015. Jon, the former Government Liaison Director at GKN Aerospace, was a pioneer in the field of composite materials and had a vision of creating a ‘Composites Corridor’ in South Wales. His main aim was to train those based in South Wales with the sector expertise, focusing on young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds to realise their potential.

The centre, which consists of four classrooms, is funded by Welsh Government in response to the increasing uptake of composites in Welsh manufacturing companies. As a result of the funding, the College will introduce the first Advanced Composites Apprenticeship course in Wales which students can study from January 2019.

A Composite material is made up of two or more constituent materials, often ones that have very different physical or chemical properties. The two materials work together to give the composite unique properties. Examples of composite materials include carbon fibre, reinforced concrete and metals used in racing cars, shower stalls and bridges, plus lots more.

The composites sector is widely regarded as having huge growth potential; currently, the composites sector in Wales stands at £2.3 billion but has the potential to grow to £12 billion by 2030.

John Sexton, Campus Director Blaenau Gwent Learning Zone, said:

“We’re thrilled to be the first college in Wales, and fourth college in the UK, to offer the ‘Introduction to Composites’ course for students.

“We’ve been working closely with the National Composite Centre on the course content and required equipment so students can be confident that they’re learning the most up-to-date techniques.”

Before the course is rolled out to students from January, Cwmbran based company Zodiac Aerospace has enrolled some of their staff to pilot the course, in order to upskill their engineers and shop floor workers.

“We’d like to thank Zodiac Aerospace Ltd who have provided our first cohort of students and with whom we will continue to work very closely indeed. We’ll be looking to roll out the course to other companies in the near future, watch this space”, continued John.

Economy Secretary Ken Skates, said:

“This fantastic centre will deliver the most up to date training available, enabling our young people to realise their full potential and access well paid jobs with some of Wales’ premier manufacturing companies.

“It’s a fitting tribute to Jon Dennison, who worked closely with Welsh Government in pursuit of his passion to help young people from all backgrounds realise their potential through careers in the aerospace industry.

“Our Economic Action Plan shares in this vision and I’m in no doubt that this centre, and the individuals who benefit from it, will help contribute to our twin goals of growing the economy and reducing inequality, ensuring Wales is fully equipped to benefit from the industry’s successes.”

Students at Coleg Gwent already have experience with composite materials as they helped build a racing car as part of their course. Dan Lockett, Lecturer of Motorsports, Aeronautical and Composite Engineering is hoping to race the car in November. Students will learn to maintain and service the car on the track and in the classroom.

“It’s great that the students have such enthusiasm working with composite materials and it’s rewarding for them to see the materials in action in the form of our college racing car. We’re positive that the new students in January will be inspired too”, commented Dan.