The MTC has secured a share of a £1m grant to help develop the use of digital technology for vocational learning in the manufacturing sector.

A six-figure sum from Ufi’s Manufacturing Skills Fund (MSF) will be used by Coventry-based MTC, a High Value Manufacturing Catapult centre, to design an online resource which will focus on manufacturing SMEs and help them identify skills gaps to embrace emerging digital technologies associated with Industry 4.0.

The Ufi, an independent grant making charity looks to support the delivery of adult vocational skills through digital technology, has selected three initial projects including the MTC’s Online Training Needs Analysis System.

The need to have a fully-trained workforce has being heightened by the growth in UK manufacturing. The sector is at its highest peak for output in a decade having being boosted by the weaker pound and increased global demand for manufactured goods

However, to continue this upward trend, manufacturers need to close a widening skills gap – three quarters of manufacturers already struggle to fill the jobs they have – to resource increasing product demand.

Steve Picker, learning development and delivery manager in the MTC’s Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre, said: “On-going training and the upskilling of employees will be crucial to manufacturing SMEs. Our own research shows SMEs can lack the means of identifying their skills gaps and accessing appropriate learning to meet their needs.

“SMEs can struggle to determine the gap between current and future skills needs; and are overwhelmed with the selection of training available, which makes it difficult to identify what training to invest in and who to invest with.

“With this funding from Ufi, the MTC aims to develop an online training needs analysis system to provide SMEs with a fast and easy tool to analyse their current skills and identify the skills needed. The system will then recommend quality providers of relevant training solutions and access to learning materials.”

Other recipients of the Ufi’s £1m pot were the National Composites Centre, also part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, and the Association of Employment and Learning Providers.

Rebecca Garrod-Waters, Ufi CEO, said: “This is a critical time for the manufacturing industry – at the same time as demand is peaking, the industry’s access to skilled workers is diminishing.

“The projects we are funding will help transform how vocational learning is delivered to the UK manufacturing workforce, utilising digital solutions to upskill workers in a cost-effective way without impacting productivity.

“We’re excited by how innovative these three projects are – from the use of augmented reality, to online bite-sized learning environments – each is developing scalable solutions to the challenge at hand.”