Oxfordshire Advanced Skills completes £13m expansion

Oxfordshire Advanced Skills (OAS) has opened a new £13m state-of-the-art extension at the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA) Culham Campus, to provide high-quality training for apprentices in a range of industry sectors.

The opening of the new facility completes the third phase of OAS development. The investment in the centre totals over £30 million, funded by the Fusion Foundations Programme, a government initiative to enable the delivery of fusion energy, which can provide sustainable energy for future generations, by developing infrastructure, facilities, and skills in the UK.

The new building was officially opened by UK space industry expert, Stuart Martin from Satellite Applications Catapult, at an event featuring apprentices and staff from OAS and UKAEA.

Speaking about the expansion, UKAEA CEO, Prof Sir Ian Chapman, said: “To deliver fusion energy for future generations, it is vital to equip these generations with the necessary skills needed to lead the way in fusion and in adjacent sectors such as space, robotics and engineering.”

David Grailey, Managing Director of MTC Training, also attended the extension opening. MTC works in partnership with UKAEA to deliver all of the training programmes at OAS. Mr Grailey said: “The extension of OAS is a huge opportunity to seed critically important industries of the future with the talent they need to succeed and contribute positively to the UK economy. With strong support from government, our new programmes will enable us to provide more people with the skills they need to make real business impact and have a fulfilling career in engineering, across Oxfordshire and beyond.”

In attendance at the event were several apprentices who collectively represented more than 300 current learners working for manufacturing companies in various industries such as motorsport, pharmaceuticals, maritime, space and fusion.

Paige Rivers, Space Tech Apprentice, Enersys ABSL, said: “I was drawn to OAS by its impressive facilities and the range of equipment, but the extension takes my excitement to the next level! I’m really looking forward to being hands on and learning the fundamentals of engineering. I know that this will provide a great opportunity to jumpstart an exciting career in the space sector and I’ll be able to bring all my learning from OAS into my new workplace.”

The third and final phase of OAS training centre development has created an additional 2,355 sqm of space for the facility, which will support the training of 90 extra apprentices. The expansion will provide the high-tech equipment needed for the next generation of engineers to develop advanced manufacturing skills. This has enabled OAS to facilitate new apprenticeships in automation and space, as well as further upskilling and CPD courses.

The extension incorporated designs to accommodate learners with diverse mental and physical needs. This included physical aids around the building as well as staff training, to create a more accessible environment for those studying science, engineering, and technology.

OAS is a partnership between UKAEA and the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC). Both organisations have trained apprentices across science and engineering for over seven decades.