The region’s first railway academy is taking shape, bringing the future of rail engineering to the North East.
Work has started on Newcastle College’s £5m state-of-the-art training facility which is being built on land between Heworth and Pelaw.
The school will be up and running by September and aims to train 800 students over the next five years.
The Government has already pledged billions of pounds to improving Britain’s rail infrastructure and the college says the region’s rich rail heritage and engineering prowess stand it in good stead to take advantage of future job opportunities.
Carole Kitching, principal of Newcastle College, 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 college is working with a number of key stakeholders on the project, including Network Rail and The National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering (NSARE). It will train people from GCSE through to degree level and will include qualifications in electrification, signalling and telecommunications.
The project has already won support from the North East’s own light rail system, Nexus, and London Underground, which is donating equipment to the new academy.
The college’s deputy principal, Robin Ghurbhurun, said more than 1,000 rail workers across the region will be ready to retire in the next five years.
And with Hitachi due to open its £82m train-building facility in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, in three years, Mr Ghurbhurun believes now is the time to train a workforce ready for the plant when it arrives.
He said: “Our aim is to up-skill individuals to take advantage of jobs available in the future. It’s really about bringing the future of rail to the North East. There’s a real buzz around the region’s manufacturing community, what with Hitachi’s confirmed location here.
“There’s also the plethora of job opportunities that will come on the back of the Government’s proposed High Speed Rail project. The existing workforce within the region’s rail industry, with no growth at all, is 1,000 workers and they’re due to retire over the next five years.
“Nationally, more than 25,000 people in the rail industry are due to retire in the next 10 years. It’s vital to ensure we replace that workforce with the level of skills that will be required.”