The home of the new National College for High Speed Rail has been revealed by the government.
It will be located Doncaster and Birmingham, with its HQ at the West Midlands site, providing specialist vocational training at level four and above for engineers working on the £50bn High Speed 2 (HS2) line that will link Birmingham and London by 2026.
As many as 2,000 apprenticeship opportunities are expected to be created by HS2, with around 25,000 people employed during construction.
It comes with Basildon-based charity Prospects Learning Foundation having been incorporated this summer to become the first new general FE college in more than 20 years, as exclusively predicted by FE Week in July last year.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: “The benefits of high-speed rail will not just be seen by those commuting between London and the North, but through the thousands of local jobs and apprenticeships created because of HS2.
“The opening of this National College will also ensure that we have a pool of locally-trained workers with the right skills to draw upon for future projects.”
When it was revealed in January that a new college would be created, a number of FE and skills figures questioned why an existing provider had not been chosen (see FE Week cartoon from the time, right).
Among them was Association of Teachers and Lecturers general secretary Dr Mary Bousted, who said: “It is worrying that existing colleges allegedly don’t have the capacity or expertise to train sufficient numbers of young adults and adults with the skills needed.”
However, before it opens in 2017, it will have identified a network of other providers who will also be part of the National College in a ‘hub and spoke’ model.
The governing board will be chaired by Terry Morgan, who is also the chair of Crossrail, and will include representatives from Birmingham and Doncaster, alongside HS2 Ltd and industry employers.
A second new industry college, for training nuclear power plant workers, is also being looked at by the government.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “The opening of this [HS2] college demonstrates that the UK is advancing as a global leader in rail manufacturing — in line with the government’s Industrial Strategy. This is the next step in building the highly-skilled specialist workforce needed to develop the biggest infrastructure project this country has ever seen, and to enable our rail industry to compete in future global markets.
“This process has demonstrated a real commitment from all parts of the country to the development of a cutting edge training facility and a rail workforce which is the best in the world.”
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “We have brilliant engineers in this country, but there are not enough of them. With the creation of a National College we can make sure we give young people the skills they need to build HS2 and other projects right across the country.”
The sites were selected following a consultation process which, according to a government spokesperson, attracted a number of very strong proposals from across the country. All bids were assessed against a range of criteria including the size and availability of a suitable site, accessibility, and the potential to develop strong links with employers and providers already operating in the sector.