New EAL qualification launched to support £38billion investment in rail network

The UK’s first apprentice engineers for rail overhead power lines on Britain’s railways have started work to help ensure an ambitious £38billion investment plan is on track.

rail-olc-apprentices

Fourteen young people began their training this month after being chosen from more than 200 applicants aged 18-24 to become the country’s first OLEC based (Overhead Line Equipment Construction) apprentices, working towards a unique qualification from EAL, the specialist awarding organisation for industry.

The apprentices will join rail industry experts at a ceremony at Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium today (September 16) to officially launch the scheme.

SPL Powerlines, a world leading engineering and installation company focussed on the electrification of overhead lines, partnered with specialist training provider Intertrain and EAL to devise and deliver the 18-month apprenticeship.

The students will work towards an EAL Level 2 NVQ Diploma in Rail Engineering Overhead Line Construction and an EAL Level 2 Certificate in Rail Engineering Underpinning Knowledge.

They underwent a rigorous selection process, involving a series of assessments and practical tests before being chosen by SPL to start their apprenticeships.

Each will have an individual training plan combining classroom learning with practical, on-the-job training and regular assessment throughout their apprenticeships. They will be utilising the Rail Engineering Overhead Line Construction Apprenticeship framework developed by Enginuity , the organisation responsible for engineering skills for the future, working in close partnership with the rail industry.

It is estimated overhead power lines sector will need around 2,000 skilled workers by 2016 which is 10 times the current capacity.

Simon Talman, Operations Director for SPL Powerlines UK said “The investment in rail electrification over the next ten years will be a welcoming challenge for us and our competitors. The growth that we all need to establish is an exciting time for our industry and having good people across all activity roles is crucial for our success. This is just the start with the apprenticeship programme and something I would encourage all rail electrification contractors to pursue, so we can collaboratively meet the UK challenge with quality and safe delivery.”

Alex Pond, Intertrain’s Operations Director said: “You need a vocational qualification to be a plumber or joiner but up until now not to be a rail engineer. SPL is a very forward thinking company and together with EAL we have devised and are now delivering the first vocational qualifications which will go a long way to rail being able to class itself as a skilled industry.”

Julia Chippendale, MD of EAL said: “Britain’s rail network is undergoing a major transformation and with schemes like HS2 and Network Rail’s National Electrification Project (NEP) this work is going to continue for many years to come. We are delighted to be the awarding body for the first ever qualification in overhead powerline electrical construction. It is vital we grow the skills pipeline to deliver such a major programme of works.”

SPL is already looking at recruiting the next intake, while Intertrain and EAL are looking to develop a Level 3 qualification to ensure the apprentices have a career progression route once they qualify.

Earlier this year Network Rail unveiled its ambitious £38billion investment plan, targeting improvements at the busiest parts of Britain’s rail network.

Work began in April on what has been described by Government as the biggest modernisation of railways since Victorian times and apprenticeships are key to ensure there is a skilled workforce to deliver all the requirements of the project.

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