Rail minister Claire Perry has formally opened the new £7 million National Training Academy for Rail (NTAR) in Northampton. It’s another big vote of confidence in the new rail industry and in particular its fast emerging training and development sector.
The move presages a further attempt to bridge the skills gap and create a new generation of skilled professional people able to take forward a burgeoning portfolio of projects and initiatives.
Next door to Siemens’ Kings Heath depot, the world-class academy will train thousands of students using digital, 3D and virtual reality equipment – giving them the hi-tech skills they need to work in the rail industry. The Government has provided 50 per cent of the £7 million funding for NTAR, with the rest coming from Siemens.
Says Claire Perry, ‘We are working closely with the transport industry to bring a sustained and lasting legacy of skills and opportunity for people across the UK. The opening of the National Training Academy for Rail is a major milestone towards delivering a network of transport infrastructure skills colleges and training academies.’
Now recognised as a 21st century economic phenomenon in its own right, the railway is powering ahead, benefitting from record levels of government investment and creating more rail jobs. The industry badly needs top grade recruits.
‘More and more of these jobs are cutting-edge, highly technical and require Britain’s best minds. This new facility – and more like it – are just what the country needs to ensure we develop a workforce with the advanced skills required to build a transport network fit for the future,’ says Perry – herself an Oxford and Harvard graduate.
Importantly NTAR will ensure students acquire the skills railway employers need. Railway engineering is going through a rapid realignment of skills. Modern rolling stock technicians use laptops instead of spanners and digital signalling systems operated from the inside of cabs. NTAR will give students the skills they need to perform these vital, high-quality roles.
Staff at the new academy aim to be the best in the business. Says general manager at NTAR Simon Rennie, ‘Our ambition is to be recognised as an international Centre of Excellence for training in traction and rolling stock and to be the source of pride for the rail industry.
‘We want to act as a flagship for skills development and for collaborative working, delivering a successful and sustainable model.’