Interest builds in new Rail Academy for North East

Posted On 19th June 2014 By Nichola Taylor

A new world-class training facility, built to secure the future of rail engineering in the North East, has received unprecedented interest despite not even being complete.

Newcastle College’s Rail Academy in Gateshead is the first of its kind in the North East. It will be a regional hub for railway engineering – a major sector of growth and a priority area of investment for Government.

The Academy is not due to open until September, but the level of interest from local people has already way exceeded expectations with over one hundred enquiries received so far.

Industry partners and businesses have also bought into the benefits that the Academy will bring in terms of skills and training and have offered support and opportunities to work with the Academy.

Principal, Carole Kitching, visited the site to see how the plans are taking shape. Contractors, Bowman and Kirkland have stripped the building back to the original skeleton frame and replaced the old roof. In the coming weeks they will add the external cladding and start to fit out the classrooms and offices.

Carole said: “It’s exciting to see our ambitious plans to develop a Rail Academy taking shape so quickly.

“It’s become clear that young people and adults in the north-east are just as excited by the training and employment opportunities in the rail industry as we are. Applications for places in September are pouring in daily and we are encouraging people to apply as soon as possible.

“We are delighted to see industry support continue to grow as this involvement is critical in ensuring we deliver exactly the right training for the skilled employees they need.”

The Rail Academy has been designed to respond to the Government’s ambitious plans to create a ‘truly world-class rail network’ by pledging to make what it describes as ‘the biggest investment in rail infrastructure for the last 150 years’. These plans include £5.2bn of previously unveiled projects and new schemes totalling £4.2bn for Electrification and Plant, which are due to be delivered between 2014-2019.

Developed with support from the National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering (NSARE) and Network Rail, the Rail Academy will create life-changing opportunities for local people by offering them the skills and training that will be essential to employers in this fast growing industry sector over the next 20 to 30 years.

The Academy will serve 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 or cross skill their existing work force or simply recruit for future growth. The facility has been designed by Newcastle-based Ryder Architecture and will feature state-of-the-art training rooms and workshops as well as industry standard equipment, such as track and junction boxes.

Andy Kinnear, Construction Director at Bowmer and Kirkland, said: “Bowmer and Kirkland are thrilled to be involved in this prestigious project for Newcastle College and NCG. The Academy will perpetuate the history of rail in the North East.”

NSARE’s Chief Executive, Gil Howarth, said “NSARE is proud to support this excellent initiative which will provide a centre of excellence for railway engineering training in the North East. It is vital that we attract young people into our buoyant industry - we need a highly competent workforce to support record levels of investment.”

Jackie Judge, Workforce Development Manager – LNE North, at Network Rail, said: “Network Rail fully supports Newcastle College’s vision to develop the next generation of railway engineers and welcomes the College’s investment. We believe this facility will contribute to the capacity of skilled workers required to deliver the significant investment which we are carrying out to meet continued increasing demand for rail services. We will work alongside the College to shape the curriculum, advise on the technology and facilities and provide links to our regional network hub in York. Industry developments and best practice will be exchanged to help to make sure that the academy delivers high quality candidates capable of supporting the next era of rail investment.”

The Rail Academy is ideally situated near to the Sunderland/Newcastle rail link and the Nexus Metro lines. The facility is conveniently located within easy walking distance from Heworth metro station and the bus interchange and is approximately 15 minutes away from major motorway road links. There are a number of heritage rail sites in close proximity to the site which would provide ideal opportunities for students to gain valuable experience on live track.

The Academy will open in September 2014. For more information or to apply visit www.ncl-coll.ac.uk/railacademy or contact 0191 2004000.