Over the past decade Edge has championed the importance and benefits of high quality technical, practical and vocational education and training, seeking a closer alignment between education and the skill needs of the UK economy.

Edge encourages innovation in education by supporting the creation of new institutions that promote profound employer engagement and address areas of skills shortages for the UK economy. In addition Edge champions projects that will support the effective dissemination of best practice in vocational education and training and have the ability to support further development or replication. All the projects in the series have the potential to become beacons of excellence and exemplars of what can be achieved.

Name of project: Centre for Excellence for Railway Training

Name of FE College: Coleg y Cymoedd

Project lead name and email address: Jayne Topping This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Location: Nantgarw, Cardiff, South Wales

Sector: Engineering

What are you doing?

Coleg y Cymoedd has created a Centre for Excellence for Railway Training. Initially the Centre will deliver the statutory training required for railway workers and a railway apprenticeship framework with a specific remit to provide the trained workforce needed for the electrification programme for railways in Wales.

The college has developed relationships with a strong network of local companies to ensure a sufficient number of apprenticeship vacancies are available.

The construction of the indoor railway training centre got underway in February 2015 and is due to complete this month – our official opening is 17th September. Within the ground floor of the centre, a fully fitted workshop will provide a real world learning environment with tracks, signals and a level crossing and appropriate equipment.

Why is it different/innovative?

The employer engagement strategy has involved employers in the development of the apprenticeship framework and in the development and delivery of the curriculum. The involvement of experienced industry professionals in the delivery of the curriculum has assisted apprentices in linking together the safety training, theoretical knowledge and practical work skills. This has been particularly effective in the contextual delivery of literacy and especially numeracy with a number of specific curriculum resources being co-created by industry specialists

Qualifications & skills learners acquire:

The apprenticeship is at level 2 and offers an initial thirteen week period full time in the college and then a mixture of day/block release and on the job training in the workplace. The apprenticeship includes a vocational NVQ, a technical certificate and essential skills qualifications and will take just over a year to complete.

Once the Centre is fully open, the college intends to increase its provision to include level 3 advanced apprenticeships and level 4 higher apprenticeships with links on to foundation degrees. Work is also planned to link with both existing and new college provision in civil engineering and construction.

The college is developing a full time course providing a Welsh baccalaureate qualification, technical qualification, essential skills and ICT plus a minimum of twenty days per annum of work experience in the rail industry. The technical qualification could be either in construction or engineering skills

Coleg y Cymoedd also has an active schools link programme, running taster and awareness sessions in local schools to highlight engineering opportunities.

It is clear that the college is working hard to provide a smooth path for learners to progress seamlessly from level 2 to level 6. They are engaging with young people from age fourteen upwards and building a strong network of industry partners.

Who are your main partners & stakeholders?

Our main partner is McGinleys. There are a further eighteen employers who have expressed a desire to be involved in this development

What are your ambitions for development?

Building on the relationships developed with employers, the college plans to offer bespoke up skilling programmes for existing rail workers.

Please tell us about any plans you have for dissemination of the model and how you are sharing best practice:

The college is actively going out into schools to promote the opportunities that now exist. The college attends sector information exchange events such as HO2 to further disseminate information. The college uses its social media and web media to promote engagement with the programme and has recently added overhead line electrification qualifications at level 2 and level 3 to its prospectus. The college plans to further promote its work in this area by including the activity in competition entries.

Employer engagement - how does this tie in to local labour market?

The 'National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering' (NSARE) has developed a skills forecast for the next ten to twenty years which clearly identifies huge shortfalls in the availability of a skilled workforce. The college has spoken to over nineteen companies that have indicated a commitment to taking on railway engineering apprentices to support the £10billion spend expected over the next ten years.

Coleg y Cymoedd is creating a Centre for Excellence for railways workforce training. The centre will deliver the essential statutory training programmes for railways workforce i.e. personal track safety and track induction course. These programmes are essential to support people into employment within the railway sector. The facility has been NSARE approved to support the delivery of a railways apprenticeship framework, again, meeting an essential need for the railway sector and the planned developments for Wales (line electrification).

The college has spoken to over nineteen companies that have indicated a commitment to taking on railway engineering apprentices. Various Welsh Government initiated conferences for railway employers have taken place within the college to promote training within the railway sector and clearly indicated an immediate need. The training programme is specialised therefore the college is working in a unique partnership with the railway sector to support the delivery of training. This profound partnership ensures the curriculum meets the needs of the railway sector, and is delivered by skilled railways personnel alongside college tutors to ensure the skills are delivered that have been identified for the railway sector to support opportunities for employment.

Clearly, this training addresses the skills shortages identified in the railway sector and is fully in concert with the WG strategy for workforce skills development in the context of the railways electrification for Wales and increased opportunities for apprenticeships.

What are the further learning and career path opportunities?

All learners engaged on the programme are employed as apprentices. Progression can be achieved from level 2 to level 3 within the apprenticeship framework, thereafter, links can be made with higher education institutions for any learner who wants to progress on again into a higher apprenticeship. Learners can attain qualifications in overhead line electrification and railtrack dependent on the direction of their career pathway.

Destinations of students following the course - please give any examples where possible:

Our first cohort is due to finish this month so watch this space!

What have been the greatest challenges of the project?

The greatest challenge has been to locate apprentices who can meet the very challenging entry criteria, both physical and academic.

What do you see as the biggest achievements around the project?

  • It has been totally satisfying being in a position to meet employer demand in the local area and to offer long term, high value employment opportunities to both the youth and adult population of South Wales and wider environs.
  • It has further been exciting to link so closely to employers and work with them totally focussed on a curriculum to meet their needs for the immediate future and their long term demands.
  • Using their staff to co-deliver the programme has heightened awareness of not only the skills needed but also the attitude required to be a successful, modern railway worker.
  • The college has achieved a purpose built centre to add to its estate and this will ensure that the college remains at the forefront of delivering skills that are needed, have immediate job prospects and can offer high value wages to the local population.

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