The collaboration agreement will see the college lead on the provision of learner education and technical training at the new facility – initially by continuing support for the 18 Alstom apprentices who are currently working on site.
Alstom and its affiliates will continue to own and manage the academy, providing current and future supplies of apprentices for training through the new college partnership.
During its first days of operation under this new agreement, the partnership will prepare for a new programme to upskill up to 13 current level three apprentices, to level four, beginning in the Autumn, and then the plans are unchanged for the academy to train up to 500 apprentices over the next five years.
The existing apprentices at the Widnes rail academy will continue to work for Alstom while the academy staff will be transferred to the National College for High Speed Rail under TUPE, remaining based in Widnes.
Alstom’s Widnes facility was opened in June 2017, while The National College for High Speed Rail, opened in October 2017 with two brand new campuses located in Doncaster and Birmingham.
This latest development is a major boost to the National College for High Speed Rail, which has been tasked with preparing the next generation of industry leaders to deliver major infrastructure projects, as well as preparing for probable future growth projects in rail and engineering.
Martin Owen, commercial financial director at the National College for High Speed Rail, says: “This is a milestone for the college and we’re looking forward to working with Alstom to ensure the Rail Academy in Widnes can become even greater than the sum of its parts. We’ll be looking to build on Alstom’s initial work through a truly collaborative approach which will equip the future workforce with skills that are vital for the industry’s move towards high speed rail.
“For the college, this agreement also marks the first phase of the hub and spoke model which was outlined in our original plans. It means our unique training offer can now be brought to the North West of England, positioning our services as a training delivery partner across three regions that will be critical to the success of HS2.
“The partnership also broadens our offer across the North, ensuring the college is well placed to develop the skills that will be needed in the workforce for other major rail infrastructure projects in the North, such as plans to improve east-west connectivity through Northern Powerhouse Rail.”