A new multi-million pound training facility, which will help to secure the future of rail engineering in the North East, has received support from the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Vince Cable praised Newcastle College's Rail Academy as being 'a critical part of the future investment in skills' in a specially recorded message to mark its official opening.
The college run academy is the first of its kind in the country and will be a regional hub for training and development for railway engineering. It was 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 in the last 150 years'.
The Business Secretary said: "The Rail Academy is an important initiative that will support the Government's investment in the future of the UK's rail infrastructure. Developing specialist training and skills is vital in creating the next generation of rail engineers and will provide opportunities for thousands of young people to develop careers in this growing sector. I would like to congratulate Newcastle College on this outstanding facility and wish all of the students every success in the future."
Developed with support from the National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering (NSARE) and Network Rail, the Rail Academy will help the industry address regional and national skills gaps, support further job creation and ensure the vitality of the rail sector in light of a rapidly ageing workforce.
The Academy serves 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 their existing work force or simply recruit for future growth. It is able to blend all aspects of the rail environment under one roof, particularly for signalling, telecommunications, electrification and permanent way.
The Rail Academy will not only produce the rail engineers of the future, it will also offer a bespoke training venue to help employers up-skill existing staff, and train new staff in a safe environment. Full-time diplomas in rail engineering, suitable for all age groups, are currently available. Bespoke HNC courses and degree courses are also now being developed in conjunction with industry partners. There are also a wide range of industry standard courses.
Marc McPake, Head of the Rail Academy, said: "The opening of the rail academy signifies the start of a new era in training for the next generation of rail engineers. I believe that what we have here is unique. We are helping to develop the skills that are needed by industry today, but also creating a pipeline of skilled people with the knowledge of the state of the art equipment that we will see in the rail industry in the future.
“The Government is investing millions in our rail infrastructure and we are seeing massive innovations in rail engineering that must be underpinned by high level skills and training. We know that there is a huge demand for skilled workers and we must use this opportunity to inspire the next generation of rail engineers as well as support employers to develop their existing workforce. The Rail Academy is a great example of collaboration between industry and education. It's important that everything we do is focussed around the needs of employers as that is what will help us secure the future of rail engineering in the north east and create job opportunities for more and more local people every year.”