Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, visited the Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation (BCIMO) on Tuesday 20th February to officially open a new region-wide rail training academy developed by the City of Wolverhampton College and National Infrastructure Solutions (NIS).

The Transport, Rail and Infrastructure Academy (TRIA), based at BCIMO’s Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre (VLRNIC), 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 West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is investing £1.1m to create 432 training places at the academy, which 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.

Cllr Patrick Harley, Marco Longhi MP, Huw Merriman, Neil Fulton and Colin Knight
(l-r) Davie Carns (NIS), Malcolm Cowgill (City of Wolverhampton College), Tavoy Wilson (Learner at NIS), Andy Street (Mayor of the West Midlands) and Lynn Parker (City of Wolverhampton College)

The VLRNIC provides the perfect base for this initiative, offering a range of unique facilities in one location – a first for the UK rail industry – and based in Dudley at the heart of the Black Country.

The TRIA utilises the centre’s Rail Development and Test Site, boasting 2.2km of conventional Rail Test 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.

The academy also occupies two indoor engineering laboratories, which have been converted into classrooms and a practical training area, office space for NIS staff, and has access to the centre’s state-of-the-art Meeting & Event Spaces. As part of his visit the Mayor also cut the ribbon to open the new Signalling Academy based in one of the ground floor engineering labs.

Solar powered cellular gateways collate sensor data and send it to a cloud-based data portal
Senceive use the facility for training sessions with in-house and external groups

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.”

Discussing the visit, Neil Fulton, Chief Executive Officer at BCIMO, said: “We were delighted to welcome Andy Street back to our unique rail facility to officially open the new academy.

“The TRIA offers significant career opportunities to the residents of Dudley, the Black Country and indeed the wider West Midlands, and helps us at BCIMO to achieve one of our key remits, which is to help increase the skills and capabilities of existing workforces and also develop the pipeline of talent where skill gaps exist in the region.”

Malcolm Cowgill, principal of City of Wolverhampton College, 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 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.”

For more information on TRIA please visit the Wolverhampton College website.

For more information on BCIMO please visit the BCIMO website or Contact Us to make an enquiry.

The Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation (BCIMO) is a not-for-profit Research and Technology Organisation (RTO) and operator of the Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre (VLRNIC), a unique, world-class centre for rail innovation based in Dudley in the West Midlands.

BCIMO Project Funders

Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation (BCIMO)
Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre
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