Coleg y Cymoedd is set to establish a Railway Training Centre of Excellence for apprenticeships in South East Wales after a £3.1 million investment to its rail facility.
The developments come as this year’s National Apprenticeship Week 2015 (Monday 9th March – Friday 13th March) celebrates the range of apprenticeships available in different sectors, and the talent and skills of apprentices across the UK.
The investment by Welsh Government to the rail facility at Coleg y Cymoedd will include new classrooms and workshop training facilities to meet the needs of railway engineering training, with a particular focus on electrification. The investment is taking place at the college’s Nantgarw campus and will be completed by September 2015.
The upgraded rail centre will position the college as a Railway Training Centre of Excellence in the industry, significantly leading up to the Welsh Government’s plans to electrify the Valleys line and London links by 2018. This will not only improve services hugely for train passengers, but also provide opportunity for a huge labour force in South Wales.
Engaging with over 40 apprentices in this academic year alone, Jonathan Brown, 23 from Senghenydd, is just one of the current cohort reaping the benefits of intensive industry training on the rail apprenticeship after months of unemployment. Jonathan is following his father and brother’s footsteps, who also work in the rail industry.
Returning from living in Australia for 15 months, Jonathan was recommended to join the railway learners on the apprenticeship to suit his preference of skills-based learning. Speaking of his time on the course so far, Jonathan said: “I have found this method of teaching so much more effective than previous learning environments because we are learning first hand from our tutor who has a lot of experience in the industry.
“There is a stronger incentive in an apprenticeship to do well because we are learning on the job and have the opportunity to go straight into work afterwards.”
Following the first stage of a £3 million investment in new equipment and facilities, the rail apprenticeship began in September 2014, attracting learners from across South Wales. The apprentices have been working on a purpose built replica track, providing first hand insight into the industry while gaining recognised qualifications too.
The intensive training is being delivered jointly by Coleg y Cymoedd and specialist rail recruitment firm McGinley Support Services. The partnership with McGinley means that the learners like Jonathan are not only gaining essential skills in a realistic environment, but will head straight out to work with McGinley for a year of guided learning in the industry.
McGinley’s railway apprenticeship course tutor, Wayne Chawner, who is based at Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “The railway apprenticeship is a fantastic opportunity for these young people to work on a real life replicated track with proper components, in a very safe environment.
“This course provides the apprentices with first-hand experience with huge career advancements in the rail industry. These learners will be in line to fill the large labour force that will come from the upcoming work on the Valleys lines and London link.”
There are now 51,000 people on apprenticeship schemes in Wales, all of whom chose the vocational route. Apprenticeships are equally beneficial to businesses, as the employee can improve productivity by being fully trained from the start.
Coleg y Cymoedd is holding an information event on Wednesday 11th March 2015 at its Nantgarw campus, starting at 12pm, showcasing apprenticeship routes and training for employers. Apprenticeship and ‘Training for Employer’ teams will be available to discuss future training needs.