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New rail training centre gets mayoral stamp of approval

A new training academy set to help people get all the skills they need to work in the rail industry has been given the mayoral stamp of approval.

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The Transport, Rail and Infrastructure Academy (TRIA) has been set up to increase employment opportunities for locals and meet the demand for skilled operatives to work in the construction and maintenance of train lines, tram routes and stations across the region.

The launch took place at the TRIA's new site at the Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation (BCIMO)'s Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre in Dudley, where the mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street also cut the ribbon to open a new signalling academy.

The TRIA has been developed by the college in partnership with NIS, a leading provider of training in the rail, civil engineering and utilities industries and provides training for newcomers to the sector, as well as existing rail operatives who want to upskill and develop their industry knowledge further.

Tavoy Wilson and Andy Street officially open the centre with a ribbon cutting

Courses are funded by the West Midlands Combined Authority which is investing £1.8 million per year in training at the Dudley site, as well as £10m for training across the wider TRIA sites.

Mr Street said it was very positive to see another outpost for the rail training programme and said it was good for the Combined Authority to be able to underpin it with the investment.

He also spoke about future projects and how the academy could help bring in workers for all areas of the industry.

He said: "It's all about the fact that the rail industry is a growing industry across the West Midlands, creating lots of jobs, and we need to give people training opportunities to get into that industry.

"There's all sorts of jobs in rail, that's the key point from this, and we've announced more works in Aldridge, South Birmingham, as well as the works in Walsall and Wolverhampton and the tram works in Dudley, as well as the works with HS2, so there's so much going on.

"If you think of the type of works there are, there's all the groundwork skills, as well as the engineering skills, design skills and project management skills and supervisory roles, so this industry can create all sort of opportunities.

"We want this to be about local jobs for local people and the industry in the West Midlands is sufficiently vibrant with all of the construction and maintenance that there is, so what we're really saying to local people that the opportunities are there."

Dave Carns, Mal Cowgill, Tavoy Wilson, Andy Street and Lynn Parker mark the launch of the academy

The academy already has an industry-standard rail training site at the college's Wellington Road campus, in Bilston, which features more than 40 metres of railway track and was the first in the UK to offer training on slab track technology which is used in the construction of high-speed rail lines, with plans to open an additional site in Aston, Birmingham, later in the year.

The Dudley site boasts more than 2000 metres of conventional rail track, including two split-level platforms, an 870m tunnel and signalling components to give students hands-on training in multiple disciplines across the industry and enhance their learning experience by working with the same equipment as used on rail construction sites.

Wolverhampton College Mal Cowgill said the new academy was a fantastic opportunity for the college and said it was good to reach this milestone.

He said: "To have a separate brand and new Transport, Rail and Infrastructure academies across the region and then some fantastic facilities in key locations, particularly Wolverhampton where we started, is great and we've now got some great facilities that have been pushed for by the industry.

"There are different levels and we call it a skills escalator, so what we're trying to do is move people up to jobs that are already working in the industry to create the gaps for people training here to be able to fill.

"That means that when people complete their training, they can go straight into a job and that enables us to be able to invest in the rest of Wolverhampton."

Davie Carns, NIS managing director, said the launch was a proud moment and really enhanced the partnership between NIS and the college and spoke about what made the area so good for training.

He said: "There's a thirst in the Black Country and the wider region for blue collar skills, so there's a lot of people hungry to get into work and hungry to ascertain the skills that are needed on infrastructure projects, plus the region is steeped in history for manual labour.

"That really does allow us to push on and then create opportunities and push people into the industry.

"It's great to have the support of the Combined Authority as well and Andy Street and his team have been nothing but supportive from offset of this project."

Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, said: “It is fantastic that we have this state-of-the-art training facility in our borough.

“It will give borough residents the opportunity to learn the skills needed to become leading lights in the fast-developing light rail sector.”