Higher Level Skills Delivery: Learning Lessons From the National College for High Speed Rail

The vocational skills gap has been widely acknowledged for many years, and a range of initiatives has been implemented in recent years to address it. A key emphasis is the need to develop progression routes from the well-established vocational training in Further Education into the higher level technical skills that are increasingly needed by the workplace. Furthermore, to keep pace with the rate of change in new technology and industrial innovation, upskilling and retraining for the existing workforce is essential if we are to address the future skills needs of the economy.


The flagship National College for High Speed Rail is at the forefront of this new thinking – delivering the new skills and employees that will be required for HS2 and the wider rail industry: from infrastructure and engineering to rolling-stock maintenance, communications and management.

However, in 2014, the team selected to develop the new College buildings faced a major challenge: “how do you design a building to deliver these skills, before the College’s senior leadership or curriculum teams have been appointed?”.


The solution lay in a genuine engagement with industry partners; in conjunction with an educationalist and acting Principal, Bond Bryan formulated the brief and design through a series of meetings with over 60 senior national and international industry representatives.


The outcome has been two new campuses that offer both a curriculum and also facilities tailored to the specific needs of the rail industry. The Doncaster centre focuses on the mechanical skills of rolling-stock and track infrastructure, whilst the Birmingham campus supports civil engineering and digital skills.


Steve and Jon’s presentation explores the process of engaging with industry partners and the challenges of turning the diverse range of needs and priorities into a coherent and flexible curriculum and design brief. Finally, it considers the lessons learnt and how these might influence the development of the next generation of Higher Skills training facilities – from the proposed new Institutes of Technology, to the wave of university-led Degree Apprenticeship Centres.


Time: 12:25 – 12:50

Date: Tuesday 16 October

Stage: Good Estate Management



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