Comment

18.09.17

A network of training excellence

Source: RTM Aug/Sep 17

Writing on behalf of the Training Alliance, Simon Rennie runs through the early results of a tight-knit collaboration agreement between key rail organisations.

Ribbons have been cut, the minister has made a stirring speech, the BBC’s radio car has departed and the final pastry scoffed. Senior sponsors are delighted with the warm glow of PR generated by the opening of the latest Rail Training Centre (and clear commitment to UK plc through public-private investment). 

It could, of course, be like this – investment in buildings masquerading as a route to solve skills shortages while the players in the training world chase the same objectives in a poorly co-ordinated game of duplicated provision. The taxpayer should weep. 

And yet… co-ordination to deliver the required high-quality skills is real. It’s worth recapping that both government and industry strategy is strongly aligned through the Transport Infrastructure Skills Strategy and the Rail Supply Group Sector Strategy – in particular emphasising the need for high volumes of quality, levy-funded apprenticeships. Secondly, as reported in these pages last year, NSAR CEO Neil Robertson announced a training network, a collaboration between publicly-funded rail training leaders in the UK. 

In practice, this means a Training Alliance consisting of Network Rail, TfL, the National College for High Speed Rail (NCHSR), the Alstom Academy and the National Training Academy for Rail (NTAR) coming together to form a network of excellence which has a common vision and high-quality, industry-defined standards; collaborating, not accidentally competing. 

Rail from above c. MarioGuti edit]

© MarioGuti

Each element of the group has distinct purpose and vision: 

  • Network Rail Training provides a national training service that allows customers to benefit from economies of scale but feels local at the point of delivery. The service aligns customers’ objectives and priorities so that it delivers behavioural safety, leadership and professional development to enable continuous improvement of safety and business performance in the areas of track infrastructure, electrification, ETCS, traffic management, control room operations, stations, telecoms and signalling operations
  • The NCHSR is a specialist institution with sites in Birmingham and Doncaster, dedicated to delivering innovative higher technical training to the workforce who will deliver HS2 and other rail modernisation and infrastructure projects. It is industry-led, with businesses contributing to the design and delivery of the curriculum, donating specialist kit, and offering work experience and mentoring opportunities to students. At full capacity, the college will train 1,200 students per year
  • TfL is proud to be a member of the Training Alliance and places a strong focus on channelling its skills and capability into delivering a significant number of apprenticeships across the rail sector to meet the significant future demand of its customers, London’s ever-growing population
  • The Alstom Academy has a vision to support modernisation and innovation for the industry by driving thought leadership and enabling strategic workforce agility – providing opportunities for sector-specific early careers, upskilling and leadership development in the areas of traction and rolling stock, signalling solutions, Lean, project management and leadership development
  • NTAR, co-funded by Siemens, has a particular focus on Level 2-4 traction and rolling stock rail engineering apprenticeships, setting out to attract Generation Z learners through innovative and engaging learning channels serving rolling stock manufacturers, TOCs and the broader supply chain 

There’s a natty description that says skills development must be ‘pre-competitive’ – the point being that if industry fails to pull together, then resource pools shrink, wage inflation steepens and the required development of the railway can’t be achieved through lack of manpower. 

Soundbites are cheap, but what about the substance? As a snapshot of collaboration, reflect on these: 

  • Network Rail chairs the Trailblazer group that defines the overarching rail engineering standard adopted by industry and that the entire Training Alliance will use. Similarly, HS2 chairs the High-Speed Rail and Infrastructure Trailblazer delivered by the National College
  • Siemens, through NTAR, is placing learners at the National College and is donating equipment
  • TfL is working with NTAR on both operational training and co-investing on interactive fault-finding tools
  • Alstom has donated equipment to both the National College (#Donnystar and #Brumstar chief among them) and NTAR, while Alstom and NTAR are working jointly on training projects for their graduate engineers
  • In turn, the National College and NTAR are working on a joint proposal to deliver Level 4 apprenticeships to Alstom
  • Network Rail is working with NTAR to deliver traction and rolling stock apprenticeships and both have jointly developed online induction material for new rail engineering apprentices industry-wide 

So, the early signs are good. There is a focus on the common good, and the taxpayer, for now, can save their tears.

 

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opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

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