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Railways: Engineers

Volume 485: debated on Thursday 18 December 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what steps his Department is taking to increase the number of skilled railway engineers. (245135)

The Government work through Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) to help promote skills to industry and support employers in closing skills shortages and gaps. GoSkills is the SSC with responsibility for rail engineering.

In common with all SSCs, GoSkills has developed a sector skills agreement (SSA) which identifies the sector’s current and future skills needs. The SSA, which is UK wide, provides a clear platform for education and skills agencies and providers to work with the sector on helping meet those needs.

GoSkills have also produced their Sector Qualification Strategy which sets out the qualifications that the rail industry needs. Qualifications are regularly updated to ensure that they are fit for purpose and supporting the development of the skills the industry needs. The National Occupational Standards for Rail Engineering will be reviewed in 2009. This review will be driven by industry and will ensure that the industry-specific qualifications and all apprenticeship frameworks for rail engineering are refreshed and reflective of current best practice.

The partners in the rail industry have put in place a number of initiatives to increase the number of skilled staff in the industry.

Network Rail have established an award winning apprenticeship scheme using the industry standards. Metronet and Tubelines run major apprenticeship schemes. BIRSE engineering has launched a new apprenticeship scheme with West Anglia college.

There is an industry-sponsored Foundation Degree in Rail Engineering delivered by Sheffield Hallam university and the industry.

There are three centres of vocational excellence (CoVE). CoVEs demonstrate expertise in delivering specific types of vocational education and training. CoVEs often have college links and close business partnerships, and aim to produce specialists in a wide range of vocational areas to meet the needs of the marketplace. A celebration of the 10,000th NVQ achieved for all rail disciplines was held in the House of Commons dining room on 4 December for Four Counties Training CoVE and partners.