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Training taking off in the north

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Two new dedicated rail training centres have opened in the north of England as the industry continues to create more regional facilities to develop local talent.

In the North East, Newcastle College has opened the Rail Academy – the first of its kind in the country.

Developed with backing from the National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering (NSARE) and Network Rail, the academy will be open to all age groups, including young people looking to develop a career in the rail sector, those wanting to change career and employers who need to up-skill their existing work force or simply recruit for future growth.

The academy features an indoor and outdoor OLE, fully operating and interlocked S&C and S&T equipment, multiple P-way set-ups, electronic
and PLC testing and monitoring equipment, a signalling workshop and a mechanical workshop.

Learners will be able to complete a range of industry standard courses in disciplines such as signalling, small tools and safety critical roles. The academy also offers full-time diplomas in rail engineering and is currently developing bespoke HNC courses with industry partners.

New era in training

Marc McPake, head of the rail academy, said, ‘The opening of the rail academy signifies the start of a new era in training for the next generation of rail engineers. I believe that what we have here is unique. We are helping to develop the skills that are needed by industry today, but also creating a pipeline of skilled people with the knowledge of the state-of-the-art equipment that we will see in the rail industry in the future.

‘The government is investing millions in our rail infrastructure, and we are seeing massive innovations in rail engineering that must be underpinned by high level skills and training. We know that there is a huge demand for skilled workers and we must use this opportunity to inspire the next generation of rail engineers as well as support employers to develop their existing workforce.’

In Doncaster, the Rail Electrification Alliance (REAL) has opened an OLE training centre. The facility, like Newcastle College’s academy, has been established in response to concerns about the future lack of skills in a number of critical rail disciplines.

REAL is a partnership between VolkerRail, J Murphy & Sons, Network Rail and Siemens. The new OLE training centre provides in-house Sentinel and OLEC training. Within the facility, there are two 20-metre long OLE spans, as well as signalling, point heaters and ballasted track for electrical and mechanical courses. VolkerRail and REAL are currently developing 60 OLE trainees, eight apprentices and four ex-forces conversion engineers.

Since its first intake, the centre has trained 66 linesmen and engineering staff to either OLEC level 1, OLEC level 2 or OLEC level 3. Many of these are now working on some the highest profile projects underway in the UK at the moment, including the East Coast Main Line power supply upgrade and the Staffordshire Alliance.

Speaking at the opening, Ros Jones, Mayor of Doncaster, said, ‘This superb facility will play a vital role helping to supply the skilled workforce that our railway industry needs. We are passionate about Doncaster’s proud railway heritage and our role in the future of the industry, so I am delighted that VolkerRail and REAL have chosen to make this investment in our town.

‘The centre will also complement the new National High Speed Rail College being built in Doncaster, strengthening the contribution that the borough is making towards the delivery of a first class railway network.

’Steve Cocliff, managing director of VolkerRail said, ‘I firmly believe that through the training delivered at this new facility, we will meet the industry’s delivery challenges. In support of the rail industry, we will create a sustainable, skilled and motivated workforce to help overcome the current chronic skills shortage.’


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