Twelve months ago when we began contributing to this magazine, we found ourselves looking positively towards the future of the rail industry, excited about the prospect of training opportunities that would deliver on the many large scale projects in the pipeline.
Now, a year on, and just a few months away from the start of Control Period 5 (CP5), it feels like a good opportunity to take stock of where the industry stands.
During 2012, major changes to the training review process saw the previous Achilles audit replaced with NSARE’s accreditation scheme. Initially viewed as a controversial regime, the change from what was essentially a tick box exercise to a renewed focus on quality of the learner experience, has really changed things for the better.
A positive move
This was evidenced in the first round of inspections which recognised six providers as outstanding. Out of those re- inspected in round two, a number of other organisations have improved their grades from good to outstanding – a positive move for the industry.
Whilst this is a positive outcome, there is still some way to go, especially as David Cameron has labelled the significant railway upgrades to begin in 2014 as the ‘biggest modernisation of our railways since the Victorian era.’
It is concerning that NSARE has identified that only 17% of the engineering workforce has qualifications at higher academic levels (above A-Level). This highlights the major gap in skills and is something that will continue to increase unless radical action is taken.
As we all know the nature of the rail industry is that large-scale, capital investment projects can take decades to plan and implement and I welcome the Railway Technical Strategy’s recommendation that we should be developing strategic relationships to learn best practice from other industries so that we can minimise the risk in adopting new skill sets.
In recognition of this, employers are beginning to demand better quality training and facilities for their employees. An example of this was in a tender we recently received which requested evidence of how we brief our trainers and assessors, how we monitor and evaluate their performance and the scope and location of our training facilities.
It’s promising to see that across the industry, employers, training providers, suppliers and support organisations such as NSARE, are all working together towards the same end goal of developing a skilled, quality workforce that is equipped to deliver on the many exciting opportunities that lie ahead of us.
By Lawrence Dobie, Education and Training Director at Vital Services Group