Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, officially opened a new region-wide rail training academy, developed by the City of Wolverhampton College and National Infrastructure Solutions (NIS) to increase employment opportunities by giving local people the skills needed to work in the sector. 

The Transport, Rail and Infrastructure Academy (TRIA) has been set up to increase employment opportunities for local people 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 Zoological Drive, Dudley, where the Mayor also cut the ribbon to open a new Signalling Academy.

The TRIA has been developed in partnership with National Infrastructure Solutions (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. To support residents into good jobs in rail, the WMCA is investing of £1.1m to create 432 training places at the Dudley site.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and Chair of West Midlands Combined Authority, said: “Hundreds of millions of pounds are being invested right now into the region’s train and tram network with new rail lines and stations being built and new Metro routes under construction.

“That’s great news for the travelling public but we also need to make sure this unprecedented investment benefits local people in terms of new jobs and careers. That’s why the WMCA is helping to fund this state-of-the-art training academy and matching skills courses to the needs of our regional economy. I can’t wait to see local people land good quality jobs in the rail industry as a direct result of this latest investment, further cementing the role of the West Midlands as the training hub of the UK.”

Councillor George Duggins, WMCA portfolio holder for productivity and skills and leader of Coventry City Council, added: “This exceptional training provision which directly results in employment opportunities for local people, is the way forward to improve skills levels and career prospects in our region.” Not only is the facility training people that are looking to move into this sector but importantly upskilling people already working in the sector so that they can develop their skills in line with sector needs – improving their future prospects.”

City of Wolverhampton College principal, Malcolm Cowgill, said: “The economic climate is such at the moment that we need to support local people into jobs and, working in partnership with our training provider NIS, the academy will offer employer-led training to address skills gaps in specific areas of the industry, focussing on getting entry-level candidates into work, upskilling existing operatives and ensuring that the workforce is equipped with the latest industry-recognised qualifications and accreditations to ensure sustainable skilled employment now and in the future.

Davie Carns, Managing Director of National Infrastructure Solutions, added his support:

“Our partnership with City of Wolverhampton College and the WMCA is now in its fifth year and, by working together, we have delivered training that has created sustainable employment for more than 2000 people.

“TRIA is the next step in the relationship and will give us the framework to provide specialist courses across multiple locations in the West Midlands, encouraging greater employer engagement and the potential for more jobs. The Black Country Signalling Academy at BCIMO is another example of how we are listening to businesses and developing training for more technical roles that are currently in high demand.

“Our first six months in Dudley have been a resounding success with 500 students trained already. This is just the start.” Councillor Stephen Simkins, leader of City of Wolverhampton Council, said: “It is wonderful to see this first class new rail training academy developed by the City of Wolverhampton College come to fruition.

“Like the existing site at the college's Wellington Road campus, in Bilston, the new facility will offer hands-on training for people forging a career in the rail industry, or those looking to progress. We are fully behind investment in skills and education across the region and this is a prime example of a project that will have a direct benefit for residents and the wider economy.

“The new facility will help put many people on the right track for jobs, and it matches our desire to provide the best transport infrastructure we can, as demonstrated by Wolverhampton’s award-winning city centre Interchange.” 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.” 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.