Case Studies

Food and Drink Advanced Manufacturing Project

24 Aug 2018

Organisation: James Watt College – part of BMet

Location: Great Barr, Birmingham

Project: Supporting the installation of a high-quality, industry-approved specialised Food and Drink Advanced Manufacturing Facility within the existing Engineering Centre at James Watt College in Birmingham

Value of Funding: £25,000 of Local Growth Funding

Total project cost: £50,000

Paula Cresswell, Business Development Director at BMet said:

“Over 17,000 new jobs in food and drink manufacturing will be created between now and 2022, with 2,000 of these in the West Midlands.  The sector also faces the additional challenges of an ageing workforce."

"Our aim is to help drive ambitions for growth and innovation by improving workforce skills and encouraging employer collaboration.  This will lead to the development of further training programmes to support productivity and efficiency needs.”

“The facilities funded by GBSLEP place us in a unique position from which to provide a simulated environment where apprentices and employees can upskill their food production and operational skills.”

Chris Loughran, Deputy Chair of GBSLEP said:

“We are proud to observe the successes of BMet’s food and drink manufacturing academy, since its completion in May last year."

“We have identified the food and drink sector as one in which the Greater Birmingham region has a competitive advantage – offering the potential to deliver a high number of jobs and attract a high level of foreign direct investment."

“Since the completion of the project, the newly created learning space has been vital in teaching students essential work skills and we’re on track to create 500 new apprentices by 2025.”

The opportunity

The project is focused on responding to current and future sector skills needs in the food & drink sector and GBSLEP area by providing a learning environment that will ensure local people have access to high-quality food & drink manufacturing related courses.

The Food and Drink Industry is a key growth area and is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK, therefore investment to provide the sector with a workforce that is equipped with skills for the future of the industry is essential.

Food and Drink is a key driver of the regional economy with Cadbury (Mondeléz International), East End Foods and Molson Coors Brewery all within the GBSLEP area.

The project will support three core strategic priorities: growth, productivity and innovation by improving the skills and talent of the current and future workforce and supporting key strategic sectors i.e. Advanced Manufacturing (Food and Drink).


The installation of a new specialist Food and Drink Advanced Manufacturing Facility at James Watt College was completed in May 2017.

Just under 100m² of refurbished floor space was fitted, alongside the installation of Engineering equipment within the new Food and Drink Academy.

The facility has provided students with an environment that has been modelled on employers’ expectations of hygiene and efficiency, while also gaining experience of working in an industry-approved setting.

The refurbishment has supported the teaching and development of the current and future generations, with the project expected to create 500 apprentices in a sector that contributes more GVA than the automotive and aerospace sectors combined.

Why does this matter?

  • Supporting the local community with access to high-quality facilities & training
  • £25,000 of GBSLEP funding supported the fitting of 98.5m² of dedicated learning space, contributing to the creation of 500 apprentices.
  • The project aims to support local people into local jobs by providing the highest quality training to ensure all types of students are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed in the food & drink sector.
  • The new training provision creates opportunities for unemployed adult learners and young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) to gain skills that are invaluable to potential employers.

Improving the pull factors of James Watt College

  • The facility has enabled the development of new qualifications at the college e.g. Engineering Maintenance Trailblazer apprenticeships in partnership with Higher Skills providers which will allow the facility to become a Centre of Excellence.
  • The project has unlocked the potential for the college to become a market leader in the delivery of accredited and non-accredited courses to the food & drink sector.
  • The facility will be utilised to build mutually beneficial partnerships that will further the appeal of the college.