A British high speed rail icon will help to train a new generation of engineers

Posted On: 
16th August 2017

HS2 will not only be the future rail network for the UK, it will also be the training ground for our future workforce, says Alstom HS2 Director Jason Baldock.

It’s undeniable the UK is facing a shortage in the skills needed to deliver on the exciting infrastructure projects we have in the pipeline, says Jason Baldock.
Credit: 
Alstom UK

Last week ‘Donnystar’, a refurbished Eurostar e300 power car, was unveiled at the National College for High Speed Rail’s campus in Doncaster.  This week we look forward to Donnystar’s sister power car, ‘Brumstar’, arriving in Birmingham.

These trains were Britain’s first ever Very High Speed trains. They were built in the UK, Belgium and France and are still the only such trains that can navigate the smaller tunnels and bridges that make up the UK rail network. Now, having been donated to the National College for High Speed Rail by Alstom and Eurostar they represent a fantastic facility for Britain’s newest high speed engineers to train on.

It’s undeniable the UK is facing a shortage in the skills needed to deliver on the exciting infrastructure projects we have in the pipeline. In particular, more is needed to be done to tackle the acute skills shortage seen across the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) sectors in the UK.

According to the UK Commission for Employment & Skills, 43 per cent of STEM vacancies are hard to fill. More ominously, Engineering UK’s 2017 State of Engineering Report estimates that we are facing an annual shortage of up to 20,000 skilled engineers.

HS2 represents an exciting opportunity to address that problem. HS2 will not only be the future rail network for the UK, it will also be the training ground for our future workforce and will provide the UK with an opportunity to create a new generation of engineers to deliver the UK’s future infrastructure demands.

The rail industry has recognised this and has stepped up to the challenge. The National College for High Speed Rail in Doncaster and Birmingham is already doing great work here, and Alstom and Eurostar are proud to be supporting them with donations such as these Eurostar vehicles.

And at Alstom, we are doing much more as well.  We have recently opened the UK’s largest and most sophisticated new centre for train modernisation in Widnes. Having successfully completed their level 2 apprenticeships in Riverside College, we have hired five local apprentices to work on the centre’s first contract to re-paint the 56-strong fleet of Class 390 ‘tilting’ Pendolino trains. More exciting still is the impending opening of the Alstom Academy for Rail at the same site in the autumn of this year.

This type of commitment to training is what we will need to see across the sector if we are to achieve ambitious projects such as HS2 and Crossrail 2. The National College for High Speed Rail and our academy in Widnes are vital to providing young people with the skills and training needed to secure a successful future for the sector in the UK.

We must act now to ensure that our future workforce has the skills and capabilities to fill the large number of jobs and training opportunities that will be created in the sector over the coming years. Technical and vocational learning will be a massive part of this and so it is up to us as an industry to make young people aware of the possibilities on offer.

While the rail sector should be applauded for its recent work in tackling this challenge, we must not rest on our laurels. We must deliver on our training commitments today and ensure we deliver the exciting future for the rail industry in the UK.