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Fri March 05 2021

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Rail building school struggles with gender balance

8 Feb 19 The National College for High Speed Rail is on a mission to get more young women into its classrooms to fix its gender balance.

The High Speed Rail College scores well on ethnic diversity but poorly on gender balance
The High Speed Rail College scores well on ethnic diversity but poorly on gender balance

The National College for High Speed Rail opened in Doncaster and Birmingham at the end of 2017 to support construction of the £56bn HS2 project and other planned works.

However, it doesn’t just want to train the next generation of rail engineers and technicians – it wants to make them proportionately less male and less white.

The college already has more than 230 learners enrolled, of whom 36% are from BME (black and minority ethnic) backgrounds, of which the college is proud. Those from BME backgrounds represent just 8% of UK engineers and technicians, and only 12% of the overall UK workforce.    

However, only 10% of the college’s current intake is female. This falls just short of the 12% of women who are part of the UK’s engineering workforce currently; itself a vast underrepresentation when compared to the 47% of women who make up the nation’s overall workforce.      

Whilst the college remains on track to reach its learner target of 396 learners by the end of this academic year, it wants more women and is preparing a recruitment campaign through its employer network and a programme of school visits and open days.    

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Clair Mowbray, chief executive of the National College for High Speed Rail, said: “As a national training provider, we’re focussed on attracting and upskilling the talent our country needs to deliver major transport infrastructure projects. However, our ambitions are about much more than simply making up the numbers that are needed to plug the skills gaps.

“As we build capacity, we’ll be paying close attention to our learner demographic and taking a proactive approach to ensure we have a balance of talented individuals from all backgrounds.

“We’re bucking the trend with our representation of learners from BME backgrounds and there is no reason why we can’t do the same to achieve a much stronger proportion of women too.

“This is why we’ll be doing even more this year to celebrate our strong female role models and encourage even more women to take advantage of the exciting career opportunities this sector has to offer.”   

The National College for High Speed Rail forecasts that it will reach full learner capacity within five years of opening when there will be over 1,000 new learners enrolling each year.

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