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Wed June 29 2022

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Academy for rail skills launches in East Ayrshire

10 May Young people aged 18 to 24 years are being invited to join Scotland’s first academy dedicated to the rail sector.

Morgan Middlemiss, project manager at the council, and Jane McFadzean, training administrator at QTS Group
Morgan Middlemiss, project manager at the council, and Jane McFadzean, training administrator at QTS Group

QTS Group and East Ayrshire Council have launched the initiative with the aim of helping combat the skills shortage and lack of diversity in the rail industry.

Over 48% of railway workers are aged 50 or over and women make up just 16% of the current workforce, said the team. It wants to take action to create a knowledgeable, diverse and qualified workforce for the future. 

The training will be based at QTS’ Drumclog HQ, where participants will be taught about topics from ‘employability’ and core skills to health and safety awareness and PTS track induction.

Each academy session will run for nine weeks, with transportation provided to and from the site for participants.

Director of QTS Training Lorna Gibson said: “Network Rail and its supply chain are creating many initiatives to combat the skills gap within our industry and, as a lead contractor working in this sector, QTS has been developing a range of programmes, including apprenticeships, traineeships, graduate development, and Kickstart programmes to encourage young people to join the industry. 

“The work we currently do with young people has made it evident that most are completely unaware of the employment and wide range of career opportunities offered by this industry.

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“The introduction of the QTS Rail Skills Academy programme will bring further opportunity for young people to be introduced to rail and to gain the qualifications, competencies and initial experience required to progress through a career in what is a thriving industry.”

Linda McAulay-Griffiths, East Ayrshire Council’s chief education officer and head of education, said: “I am delighted that QTS has been appointed by East Ayrshire Council to deliver Scotland’s first Rail Skills Academy. Our Young Person’s Guarantee team recognised that the rail industry held real career opportunities for our young people and that an Academy would be the perfect way to address the current skills shortage the industry is facing.

“In East Ayrshire, our focus is on preparing our young people for employment and ensuring that they have the skills and experience to reach their full potential. Education isn’t about fitting our young people into boxes and expecting them to achieve. We need to think innovatively, identify opportunities and work in partnership with local employers like QTS who are committed to encouraging young people to join their industry.”

Head of assessment and skills at the National Skills Academy for Rail, Barry Smith, said: “In establishing the QTS Rail Skills Academy, QTS is really showing the way to create opportunities for young people and to support the creation of a more diverse workforce for the rail industry. 

“This is an exciting and innovative new opportunity for East Ayrshire and a great way for young people to start a career in rail.”

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