• April 2024
  • More funding for Midland Met Learning Campus

The West Midlands Combined Authority backs new campus for training next generation of health service workers .

A multi-million-pound training hub giving thousands of local people the skills they need to work in the region’s health sector is set to receive funding from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA). 

The Midland Met Learning Campus, which is being built next to the new Midland Metropolitan University Hospital in Smethwick, Sandwell, will train more than 1,280 students a year. It is expected a substantial proportion of the students who graduate from the campus will be recruited into the Midland Metropolitan University Hospital’s own workforce. 

The WMCA has agreed in principle to make a £5 million investment into the campus project, which is supporting around 100 jobs during its construction and will create 30 new jobs once it opens next year. 

The WMCA’s decision will see detailed negotiations held to finalise the investment deal, in addition to the £12.9 million secured by Sandwell Council from the Government’s Town Fund programme for the campus and £650,000 co-funding from Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust. 

It will be Sandwell’s first university campus and the project has been developed in collaboration with Sandwell Council, Sandwell College, the University of Wolverhampton and Aston University. 

Concept CGI of the Midland Met Learning Campus

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, and Chair of the WMCA, said: “There are huge employment opportunities in the health service but it needs people with the right skills. 

“That’s why the WMCA invests tens of millions of pounds each year in providing training courses that can help people get work in high demand sectors like health but also in construction, digital and even our fast-growing film and TV industry. 

“The new Midland Met Learning Campus will give thousands of residents the chance to train and develop skills vital to both our local NHS and wider economy.  It will help us close the region’s skills gap and increase opportunities for local people so I’m pleased to see money from both the WMCA and government helping to fund it.” 

The campus project, led by Sandwell & West Birmingham NHS Trust, will focus on a broad range of further and higher education courses related to the health sector, offering qualifications ranging from level two to level seven.

Located at the gateway to the new Midland Metropolitan University Hospital site, the campus will be community focused, easily accessible and will incorporate a community café. It is being designed to be a net zero carbon building and is targeting a BREEAM rating of Outstanding. The new hospital, meanwhile, will be equipped with 736 beds, 13 operating theatres, an emergency department, 15 delivery rooms for maternity services, and a midwife-led birthing unit.

The learning campus and hospital represent another flagship development within Sandwell as part of the Grove Lane masterplan. The plan, approved by Sandwell and Birmingham councils in 2022, will also create 800 new homes and a green neighbourhood. 

Both councils signed the plans to further regenerate the Sandwell to Birmingham corridor, which encompasses the Birmingham Mainline Canal; Port Loop; Soho Loop; City Hospital; Grove Lane; and both Dudley Road and Smethwick high streets.

Graham Pennington, principal and chief executive of Sandwell College, said: “The College has been engaged with the development of the Learning Hub from its outset realising the College’s ambitions to develop a centre for excellence in health.

“The Learning Hub will become the natural home for the College’s Health & Social Care department, making the best use of the unique co-location of learning alongside the range of learning and job opportunities at the adjacent Midland Metropolitan Hospital.  We look forward to working with the Hospital Trust and other partners, as the building takes shape, to develop and deliver an exciting curriculum that engages young people and adults to reduce healthcare inequalities by focussing upon access to education, healthcare services and employment opportunities.”

Professor Anthony Hilton, Aston University Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean of the College of Health and Life Sciences, said: “As a leading university for health, medical and life sciences focused on working with the professions to develop healthcare professionals of the future from a diverse range of backgrounds, we are delighted to be part of the learning hub at Midland Metropolitan and City Hospital (MMCH) as we see it as key to improving capacity and capability in future. 

“It will also support collaboration between higher and further education institutions and the clinical community to ensure that the workforce, as well as the current and potential student body, have access to opportunities that have direct relevance to their economic, social and environmental development.” 

Cllr Kerrie Carmichael, leader of Sandwell Council, said: “It’s exciting to see plans moving forward on a project that will benefit the local community and the region for many years to come.  

“With our partners we are set to deliver massive regeneration to the area with the new learning campus delivering jobs for local people and learning opportunities to enhance career prospects.” 

A planning application for the learning campus was approved by Sandwell Council in 2023. It comes after the council secured £4.35 million for land acquisition and remediation to enable the delivery of new homes in the vicinity

A picture of the Midland Metropolitan University Hospital under construction in March 2024

A further £18 million from the Levelling Up Fund to continue remediation around the hospital land was granted last year. 

The Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust has meanwhile appointed Kier Group to deliver a net zero learning campus, with construction due to start on site in May. 

Richard Beeken, the Trust’s Chief Executive, said: “The Learning Campus is a game changer in the wider redevelopment including the Midland Metropolitan University Hospital. It represents the best of our intentions towards our local community as it will offer courses both in further and higher education.  

“Our intention is to build a public learning space which will welcome parents, students, staff and the community, complete with a flagship net zero building which provides a gateway to our new hospital.   

“We hope the learning campus will be brimming with community spirit and will be adaptable for future growth promoting health and wellbeing.” 

Both the hospital and the campus are being built on former industrial land, often referred to as brownfield. 

The WMCA’s nationally acclaimed ‘brownfield first’ programme, is committed to breathing new life into former industrial sites, many of which have stood derelict for decades, to create sustainable neighbourhoods and thriving communities. 

Cllr Ian Courts, leader of Solihull council, and portfolio holder for housing and land at the WMCA, said: “It is great to see this project progress and even more pleasing that we have been able to utilise brownfield land, which often goes untouched for many years.  

“Providing state-of-the-art learning environments for people in the West Midlands is a priority for WMCA and even more so in the healthcare sector. I am excited to see the development take shape and breathe new life into this former industrial site.” 

Alan Taylor, Chair of Smethwick Town Deal Board, said: “The Midland Met Learning Campus is an invaluable opportunity for Sandwell people to access training and job opportunities through the NHS Trust and Sandwell College supported by Aston and Wolverhampton Universities. 

“The hospital is an exciting development and this joint NHS Trust and Towns Fund project, delivered with partners, will ensure that Sandwell maximises the economic and social benefits of having such a large and technical facility.  

“This project will undoubtedly provide job-ready skills for residents of all ages to be able to take full advantage of the new hospital and get into long-term good quality careers.”