The National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering’s report on the state of training in the railway engineering sector could not have come at a more appropriate time.
With multi-billion pound investment set to kick-start ambitious projects around the country, the industry has been made to take a long hard look at how it is going to provide and train the workforce necessary to deliver what’s required.
While there has been a consensus that much more needs to be done to address the overall competency of training companies within rail engineering, there hasn’t been a cohesive strategy around how to go about it.
Thanks to NSARE’s comprehensive review of the current state of railway engineering training, we now have a better idea of what needs to be done across the industry. While some training providers are judged to be outstanding in the training they deliver and many more are labeled ‘good’, NSARE wants to see improvements across the board and has therefore compiled a list of specific recommendations for providers to follow in order to achieve success.
The first recommendation is for the providers themselves. NSARE believes, like Ofsted, that the woolly label of ‘satisfactory’ is far from what it says. It agrees that any training providers judged as such should, from 1st January 2013, be told that they require improvement; a much more constructive way of ensuring levels of provision are improved.
Until they can raise their standards high enough to be ‘good’, providers will not qualify for accreditation under the NSARE accreditation framework.
The trainers play a crucial role in the quality of delivery and if they are not adequately qualified – or trained – themselves, there is little hope of improvement. So NSARE’s recommendation for minimum qualifications, both for existing and new trainers, is welcome. So too is the requirement for trainers to up-skill in order to gain a certificate of professional development for teaching in the work-based learning sector.
Outdated training practices
According to the NSARE report, more than half of the existing trainers in the industry are aged over 50, so the need for recruitment is increasingly becoming more apparent, and in the medium term, it will ensure there isn’t a shortfall of trainers.
Recruiting and up-skilling trainers will also help to eliminate outdated training practices where the emphasis is on knowledge transfer rather than on developing a deeper understanding of the risks associated with activities in the railway engineering sector.
Equality and diversity
A further step forward for training providers are the recommendations relating to equality and diversity and also supporting learners with learning difficulties. In addition to removing gender-specific language, which is something we already do with having both male and female learners, one suggestion is for trainers to become role models.
By having someone to relate to who can provide inspirational, real-life examples from their career, learners will be more engaged and apply themselves throughout their training. This, in turn, will lead to increased levels of knowledge, understanding and application.
The increase in the number of apprentices entering the sector in the past 18 months is encouraging; we need to make sure this trend continues and, surely, the provision of excellent training is one way of doing that.
While many may think that NSARE could be accused of asking for a lot, the recommendations make sense and offer a framework for positive change within the industry.