National College for High Speed Rail opens its doors in Birmingham

The Birmingham campus of the National College for High Speed Rail has been officially unveiled by Paul Maynard MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rail, Accessibility and HS2, making it the largest of five new national colleges created by the Government to ensure British workers can learn world-class skills.

Alongside a second campus in Doncaster which opened on Monday October 9, the new college will welcome 150 students across both sites in the 2017-18 academic year. At full capacity, the college can cater for 1,200 students a year.

The National College for High Speed Rail in Lister Street, Birmingham, will play a key role in generating the workforce of the future who will design and build the UK’s new high-speed rail network and future infrastructure projects including HS2.

It has been equipped with the very latest in cutting-edge technology, including virtual reality training on board a Eurostar power car, an augmented reality classroom, and a dedicated BIM (building information modelling) cave.

The college is dedicated to solving the engineering, design, planning, manufacturing and construction skills gap that Britain faces as it looks to invest billions of pounds in modernising Britain’s rail network and wider transport infrastructure.

Over the next five years it is estimated that businesses in Britain will need 182,000 new engineers every year. Right now, it is falling short by 69,000 engineers a year. The rail industry in particular faces even further skills shortages, with one in five rail engineers currently aged over 55. With Britain’s move into high speed rail and HS2 alone set to create 25,000 new jobs including 2,000 apprenticeships, careers in this industry are set to become more and more sought after.

Paul Maynard MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rail, Accessibility and HS2, said: “The cutting-edge technology available to students at this college will be vital in training the skilled engineers of the future needed to build, manage and operate the railway. We are investing billions of pounds in providing more seats and more trains for passengers across the north and the midlands, and training people to get the skills that will help the Government to deliver crucial infrastructure projects.”

Clair Mowbray, chief executive for the National College for High Speed Rail, said: “It’s a great honour to officially launch the Birmingham campus of the National College for High Speed Rail and welcome our first learners and apprentices.

“We’re extremely grateful to the Government, Birmingham City Council, GBSLEP, and all of the employers for the support the college has received to get to this stage. However, the work has only just begun; we want to make sure that we have a UK workforce that has the skills to not only deliver HS2 and other major infrastructure projects, but also become the pioneers of the UK’s new high speed rail industry. Now that the building is complete and fitted-out with the latest cutting-edge technology, our focus turns exclusively to our learners and building the capacity of the college to help solve Britain’s productivity crisis and engineering shortage.

“We are proud of having created this world-class rail skills centre in Birmingham and look forward to being the gateway for hugely exciting and rewarding careers building Europe’s largest infrastructure project.”

Andrew Cleaves, Lead Board Director for Employment & Skills, Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP), said: “Having been involved from the very beginning to help bring the National College for High Speed Rail to Birmingham, this is an important day for the region to see the campus officially launched.

“The college is the first tangible sign of the huge potential that HS2 offers Greater Birmingham and we are proud to be investing £7.5 million to help deliver the next generation of trained engineers here.

“The new campus in Birmingham will be a catalyst to upskilling and raising the aspirations of this region’s young population. It will equip them with the tools required to build, operate and maintain a 21st century railway, delivering further growth and benefits to Greater Birmingham and beyond.”

Councillor Brett O’Reilly, cabinet member for jobs and skills, said: “This is a great opportunity for people across Birmingham and the wider region to forge a career path. We have always been clear that HS2 was never solely about a quick link to London – it creates a wealth of opportunities for jobs and apprenticeships as well as local businesses.”

For those interested, the college is offering the chance to study for a Certificate of Higher Education in High Speed Rail and Infrastructure (Cert HE). This is a Level 4 qualification providing an introduction to the high speed rail sector and intended to set participants up for studying a Foundation Degree. There are still some limited places available for courses beginning later this month.

For individuals whose finances may be a barrier to learning, either in terms of tuition fees, or maintenance costs whilst studying, support is available in the form of a bursary scheme. The college’s fees are also eligible for student loans, subject to application.