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Railway school on course to open next year

10 May 16 Building work has started on the new National College for High Speed Rail, one of five new national colleges being set up by the government.

HS2 commercial director Beth West talks to VolkerRail apprentice Nadine McManus at the ground breaking for the National College for High Speed Rail (NCHSR) in Doncaster
HS2 commercial director Beth West talks to VolkerRail apprentice Nadine McManus at the ground breaking for the National College for High Speed Rail (NCHSR) in Doncaster

The National College for High Speed Rail (NCHSR) will open in September 2017 with hubs in Birmingham and Doncaster. The aim is to help provide a workforce for the construction and operation of the High Speed 2 rail project, as well as any future schemes beyond that.

It will receive £40m from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) for the construction of new buildings and equipment. Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham, and Sheffield Combined Authority and the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) are each providing £6m and industry is donating approximately £5m in equipment.

Ground breaking ceremonies were held in Doncaster and Birmingham yesterday (9th May 2016) to mark the start of construction.

Terry Morgan, chair of the corporate board for the National College for High Speed Rail, said:  “The National College for High Speed Rail is progressing at an excellent pace and I am delighted that construction is underway on both sites in Doncaster and Birmingham.

“The college will have a major and hugely positive impact on the ability of the rail industry to develop a multi-skilled specialist British workforce, capable of building HS2 and future infrastructure projects. It will be a catalyst for growth in both Doncaster and Birmingham that will bring new investment into the area and provide highly skilled jobs for local people.”

HS2 Ltd commercial director Beth West, a member of the college board, added: “The National College for High Speed Rail will help re-define what it means to be employed by the rail industry by attracting new people and providing the opportunity to create the diverse workforce that the industry aspires to.

“It is vital that we act now to ensure we have enough skilled people to build HS2 and the college will provide specialist vocational training for the next generation of engineers and apprentices.”

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Other national colleges benefiting from government and industry funding as part of the same goverment initiative are:

  • National College for Nuclear (with hubs in Somerset and Cumbria)
  • National College for Onshore Oil and Gas (in Blackpool)
  • National College for Digital Skills (in London)
  • National College for the Creative and Cultural Industries (in Purfleet, Essex).

Skills minister Nick Boles said: “This is the investment in high-tech skills that businesses are crying out for. We have made it a priority to work with employers to deliver high-quality, technical education and clear routes to employment that deliver economic growth and create opportunities for our young people, and enable our existing workforce to upskill and retrain for the jobs of the future.

“The national colleges have been designed with employers, for employers. They will produce the skills needed now and into the future to ensure the UK remains innovative and at the forefront of pioneering industry.”

However, at least one person thinks they should have put construction at the centre of their education plans. Jason Ruddle, chief operating officer of software firm Elecosoft, said: “While we applaud the government’s investment in high-level, specialist and digital skills to support British industry’s future workforce, we find the exclusion of construction baffling.

“The scheme was ‘designed with employers, for employers’ – and high-level, technical and digital skills are vital in construction, one of the UK’s largest employers. It will continue to have a vast demand for new young employees equipped with digital skills and technical skills for building. This will become even more vital if the UK is to reap the export rewards of BIM as outlined in the Digital Built Britain strategy.

“Elecosoft would have gladly provided software free of charge to a Construction Skills college, as it already does with many universities, and will do the same should there be a construction stream created within the planned National College for Digital Skills. We urge skills minister Nick Boles to consider this factor as plans develop.”

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