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College unveils new centre of excellence


From left to right; Michelle Roberts (Head of Facilities, HCFE). Darren Hankey (Principal, HCFE), Helen Gott (Head of School. F&W, Process & Transport, HCFE) and Stuart Irvine (Chair of Governors, HCFE) 

Leaders at Hartlepool College of Further Education have described the opening of a new Centre of Excellence for Fabrication & Welding for Industry as “perfect timing”. The new look to the College’s state-of-the-art training facilities for fabrication and welding officially opened its doors today (Friday, April 19) with special guests from the North-East business community in attendance.

The Exeter Street annexe of Hartlepool College has been significantly improved to ensure students will no longer have to switch to the main college site for elements of training, creating more time for learning.  

Darren Hankey, Hartlepool College’s Principal, said: “We have been training welders, fabricators and platers for decades here at Hartlepool College and this is an exciting development for the whole industry. There are people in those areas who have been trained by Hartlepool College working across the world and this investment allows us to keep doing this – developing talent and transforming lives. This is a standalone Centre of Excellence that will benefit our employer partners.”

The college annexe offers 1,500 square metres of state-of-the-art fabrication and welding training facilities, including four workshops, 39 welding booths, a clean lab for weld testing and five classrooms. Providing an everything-under-one-roof approach for fabrication & welding students has been welcomed by industry leaders. SeAH Wind, Wilton Group, Strabag, Francis Brown, TATA Steel, Paralloy & FVC, Caterpillar, Darchem Engineering and Unipres were among those in attendance. 


Some of the guests from Industry, shown around our great new facility.

Wilton's immersive apprenticeship programme collaborates with Hartlepool College and believes the revamped centre will strengthen the partnership even further.

John Price, Wilton’s Group HR Manager, said: “It is excellent to see the College investing in such important facilities at a time when there is a huge demand for fabricators, welders and platers in the region. We have worked closely with the College for many years and currently have 35 apprentices being trained by them. We are looking to take on a large cohort of apprentices again this year. We are delighted with the level of training our apprentices receive from Hartlepool College and what they do compliments what our staff will learn within our own training school at Wilton Group. There are exciting times ahead within this sector and we are really pleased that our education partners are at the forefront of the training required in the area.”

The improvements to the Exeter Street site will also see an additional 70 students enrol, with 56 expected to gain qualifications over the next year.

Helen Gott, the College’s head of fabrication and welding, said: “We have seen a huge demand for this type of training over the last few years so it’s nice to see the ribbons being cut after plenty of hard work. We can now crack on with providing the exceptional training that is needed for organisations across the region. There is a diverse range of welding techniques that our exceptional staff, who all have a vast amount of industrial experience, will provide for learners.  Some of those staff are ex apprentices and students at Hartlepool College themselves.  These are things like sub-arc welding for SeAH Wind and specialist aluminium welding training for other organisations.”

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