'˜Crucial' transport investment welcomed

Major investment in road and rail could create 35,000 apprenticeship opportunities

Tuesday, 19th September 2017, 12:17 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th September 2017, 11:44 am

The creation of thousands of new apprenticeships through transport investment has been welcomed by education leaders in the North West.

An industry report released earlier this year said up to 35,000 apprenticeship opportunities are set to be created over the next five years thanks to investment in road and rail infrastructure.

The news was welcomed by leading engineering training provider Wigan UTC.

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“As a UTC based in the heart of the North West we understand just how important it is to be connected to other cities in the UK by rail and road,” said Elaine Delahunt, Head of College from Wigan UTC.

“Investment in rail and road infrastructure is key to securing jobs for the North West and for our students.

“We fully support the investment in engineering, traffic management and digital technology through quality apprenticeships, investment in jobs and skills and working with schools to support students to access roles within transport careers.”

The independent report for the department of transport found in the past year the road and rail sector had delivered more than 2,000 new apprenticeships.

The department of transport said this figure could rise to between 5,000 and 8,000 every year to 2022 thanks to large-scale projects like HS2 and a focus on new technology and cyber security.

“Making our transport infrastructure the best in the world will build business and change lives for the better,” said transport minister John Hayes when the report was released.

“Just as putting apprenticeships at the heart of this investment will seed opportunities for thousands of people.”

Elaine said apprenticeships were becoming ‘increasingly important’ to create a skilled workforce.

“School leavers are looking to build the skills employers want and need.

“Businesses are looking to improve the skills base of their employees and bring young people into their teams.

“With the increasing costs of a university education, apprenticeships at a range of levels are the key to improving young people’s chances of securing a positive future career without student debt.”

They added transport investment was ‘crucial’ for social mobility and inclusion.

“In London, for example, where transport has long been key to decision-makers, the result of continued investment in improving transport links has led to connected city regions, developing opportunities for collaboration across communities.

“In turn, this has led to mass innovation and creativity, Shoreditch for example.

“For the Northern Powerhouse to flourish, and for the North West to see greater local opportunities and greater local collaboration we need not only look at how fast we can get trains from our headline cities such as Wigan, Liverpool and Manchester to London, but how we can improve transport across the region.”

The industry report charts the progress of the government’s transport investment skills strategy, highlighting how it and bodies including Network Rail and Highways England are rising to the challenge.

It highlighted areas including better quality apprenticeships, supporting people already working in the industry to gain new skills and working with schools to encourage routes into transport careers.

Network Rail is already a partner for Wigan UTC’s dedicated Engineering Academy – something Elaine said offered an ‘incredible opportunity’ to students.

“Students need time to build real life experiences to understand the career decisions they are making at this young age, as well as the chance to demonstrate to future employers that they have the skills and attributes they are looking for from their employees.

“The unique partnership with Network Rail does just this.

“Over a year, four young people work with the team at Network Rail one day per week. They receive training on key technical skills.

“They benefit from the experience of some of the best engineers in the UK.

“Most importantly, students have the chance to understand Network Rail, the role it plays in our economy, the opportunities it offers, the innovation and the sorts of jobs they might access there in the future.”

Looking ahead to the next five years, Elaine said educating parents on the benefits of apprenticeships and making it easier for businesses to introduce an apprentice would be key.

“The increasing needs for talented, skilled young people and the introduction of the apprenticeship levy means there is a strong commitment to supporting apprenticeships over the next five years.

“Key to their future success is better education of parents and businesses on the benefits of apprenticeships and the opportunities associated with them.

“We see from our own experience here at Wigan UTC that apprenticeships are not a soft vocational option.

“Some of our very high-achieving students are being snapped up by incredible businesses for very competitive apprenticeships.

“Securing a place at Dyson or at Unilever for a degree apprenticeship is now more difficult than a place at Oxford.

“We would like to see more support for businesses to introduce an apprentice, our business partners often find this process challenging and would be willing to take more young people if they could do so more easily.

“We would also like to see investment in a greater range of quality apprenticeships in a wider range of areas, particularly within the science, health, creative and digital sectors.”

Study engineering at Wigan UTC and you will be on the road to becoming a highly skilled professional, able to work within a variety of engineering disciplines, including transport, product design and communications.

For more information, visit www.wiganutc.org