As Wales gears up for its biggest railway investment in over a century, First Minister Carwyn Jones today (17th September) met some of the new generation of high-skilled workers who will keep the industry on track.
Over the next five years Network Rail, with support from Welsh Government, will spend more than £1 billion modernising the rail system which will need a steady flow of well trained staff as it moves into its new era.
The First Minister met some of those who will fill these key roles when he visited Coleg y Cymoedd at Nantgarw to formally open Wales’ first specialist training facility for rail engineers.
The visit was an opportunity to see first-hand how the £1.54 million Welsh Government investment into Coleg y Cymoedd’s £3.08 million rail engineering facility has provided Welsh learners with a state-of-the-art indoor learning centre, full scale outdoor replica railway track and specialist training facilities for overhead line electrification engineering.
During his visit, the First Minister presented the first 20 learners to complete the course with certificates. The first cohort will now embark on a year in full time guided learning with McGinley Support Services, the contractor on site at the college jointly delivering the rail engineering apprenticeship.
Speaking at the opening of the facility, the First Minister said: “Modernisation of our existing rail system will bring huge benefits to Wales, but we need to make sure we have a workforce with the right skills, knowledge and experience to be at the forefront of the task in hand.
“Coleg y Cymoedd delivers first class training in a first class facility, ensuring there is a skilled workforce to deliver major improvements to Wales’ rail infrastructure. I’m delighted that we’ve been able to support the training and apprenticeships of so many young people and would like to wish those already enlisted on the course the best of luck with what promises to be an exciting career.”
There are now 30 full time learners and 39 railway apprentices currently on the course, who along with their predecessors will be in line to fill the hundreds of jobs created by the plans to electrify the Welsh Valley’s rail lines. Thanks to the rail facility at Coleg y Cymoedd, aspiring rail engineers from South Wales will now have access to the most up-to-date facilities to train in the industry.
Speaking at the official opening of the rail facility principal of Coleg y Cymoedd, Judith Evans, said, “We’re thrilled that the First Minister has visited the college today to officially open our rail centre. The facility will be at the forefront of creating skilled rail engineers, and with major rail investment programmes planned for the coming year, we hope these learners will fill a large job market in South Wales.
“We’re grateful to Welsh Government for their ongoing support and their confidence in Coleg y Cymoedd’s ability to deliver excellent education, training and career opportunities to young people.”
Coleg y Cymoedd now offers Level 1 Rail Engineering as part of its main curriculum. This programme is unique in that it offers both rail engineering and civil engineering making learning about the industry more accessible. Much like the apprenticeship, learners will be put into realistic workplace situations, gearing them up for the real environment.
Jack Capelin, age 20 from Cardiff, who was presented his certificate by the First Minister for completing the first stage of the course said, “I’ve gained a lot of skills from the apprenticeship both on the track and in the learning centre. Now I’m starting my year of guided learning with McGinley where I’ll hopefully put these skills to use and gain even more real work experience."