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New college to train HS2 engineers

A new college will be set up to train engineers in the technical skills needed for high speed rail, the government has announced.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said the new facility would ensure HS2 can be built by skilled British workers and would also benefit future infrastructure projects across the UK.

It will be set up by 2017 to train engineers in rail, construction and environmental studies, and teach them to use state-of-the-art equipment to deliver programmes designed specifically for the HS2 project.

Speaking to Construction News last November, HS2 commercial director Beth West said new report on the skills required for HS2 will be published early this year and will examine where greater training is needed and whether skilled workers need to be “imported” into the UK for elements of the work.

The announcement came as new chairman Sir David Higgins started his post at HS2. Sir David told BBC Radio 4 his priorities were to build the £50bn project more quickly and bring benefits to the north of England sooner.

HS2 will allow the UK to re-balance its national skills base, as well as the economic geography of the country, Sir David said.

“This country produces some of the best engineers to be found anywhere in the world. The problem is that there aren’t enough of them, and there isn’t a long enough guaranteed work-stream to keep them here. So they tend to go overseas.

“HS2 provides us with a unique chance to address both issues. The sheer length of the project means we can offer people a rewarding career in engineering staying in this country, whilst the multiplicity of skills required means we will be equipping a new generation with experience at the cutting edge of technology,” he added.

Sir David will work for HS2 for one day per week in January and February while still completing the handover for Network Rail, before taking up the post full-time from March.

The college will be the first new incorporated further education college in over 20 years, and will build relationships with existing colleges, private training providers, HE institutions allowing learners across the country to work along the line.

It is expected that HS2 will employ up to 2,000 apprentices during the lifetime of construction.

Business secretary Vince Cable said: “HS2 is the biggest infrastructure project that this government is delivering. So it is right that a large scale investment in bricks and mortar should also come with investment in the elite skills which will help build it.”

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