A pioneering apprenticeship scheme run by West Nottinghamshire College has been praised by the Government’s Skills Minister.
John Hayes MP, Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, met with rail engineering apprentices being trained to work on the UK’s rail network.
It came as part of a visit to the college’s rail track training centre at Beeston, Nottingham, to see how its state-of-the-art facilities are benefiting young people and employers.
The centre boasts a 140-metre stretch of rail track used to provide trainees with a realistic working environment before they start employment in the industry.
John Hayes said: “This apprenticeship scheme is a fantastic example of how vocational learning is helping young people to achieve the skills and confidence needed for a challenging and complex labour market. Having met some of the trainees at Beeston, I was inspired by my efforts to build the best apprenticeship system ever.
"Good further education provision is a mixture of expertise, getting the frameworks right and imbuing trainees with purposeful pride. These apprentices are proof that vocational learning can transform lives, by changing life chances.”
The rail track training facility is run by the college’s recruitment service Vision Apprentices in partnership with Trackwork, specialist railway engineers and a national training organisation to the rail industry, and Bridgeway Consulting, the UK’s leading railway infrastructure and asset management contractor.
Training programmes delivered at the centre – one of only three of its kind in the region –include NVQ Level 2 in Rail Engineering Track Maintenance and Personal Track Safety.
Mr Hayes was hosted by the college’s principal and chief executive Asha Khemka OBE and vice-principal (business development) Graham Howe.
As well as speaking to apprentices about their vocational training, Mr Hayes met with Wayne Chawner, training manager at Doncaster-based Trackwork, and Pino De Rosa, managing director of Bridgeway Consulting, whose Beeston headquarters are home to the specialist training facility.
Mrs Khemka said: “It was a pleasure to welcome Mr Hayes to the college’s innovative rail track training facility. It was fantastic to showcase the high-quality training that enables young people to enjoy rewarding careers in railway engineering, and the Minister was especially interested in the work we do with employers in the industry to provide these opportunities.”
Rail apprentices praised both the facilities and the quality of the college’s apprenticeship programme.
Steven Keeton, 22, of Stapleford, said: “The facilities are unbelievable. I was surprised by how good the tools and equipment are and the trainers couldn’t be better. Being an apprentice is a lot better than I thought it’d be. You’re taught a lot about the industry and you earn while you learn.”
James Elliott, 19, of Carlton, said: “I’m really enjoying the training. Working on the track is physically and mentally challenging but it’s really opened my eyes to new things.
“I’d like to work for one of the major organisations in the rail industry once I’ve completed my training. This is definitely the career for me.”
Steven King, 29, of Long Eaton, said: “I’ve been a rail enthusiast for over 20 years so it’s a dream to work on the railways. The training facilities are fantastic. It’s a unique chance to get hands-on experience for the job you aspire to do once you’ve completed the course, not to mention gain a recognised qualification.
“My ultimate aim is to be a locomotive driver so this is the first step for me.”