One of the largest further education colleges in South Wales has teamed up with leading rail industry names to train the next generation of skilled railway workers and create hundreds of apprenticeships. Coleg y Cymoedd has partnered up with Protech Rail Engineering – a Treforest-based firm which provides engineering and construction expertise to the UK industry - to create the ‘Protech Training Academy’. The programme is designed to equip the country’s future workforce with the skills and experience needed to meet future demand. The collaboration will also see Protech Training Academy team up with industry partner Ganymede, a national supplier of rail industry personnel, who will be the first employer to engage with the partnership, providing apprenticeships to learners on the programme. The company has recruited an initial 11 apprentices and is expecting to take on up to 100 over the next two years with opportunities for full time employment following their apprenticeships. Demand for skilled workers in the rail industry is set to soar following the announcement of multiple major rail infrastructure projects across the UK, as well as concerns over the loss of skills faced by the industry over the next few years due to its aging workforce. Estimates suggests that 28% of current rail industry employees are aged over 50 and City & Guilds predicts that an additional 120,000 people will be required in the sector over the next five to ten years to fulfil the requirements of upcoming schemes. In Wales alone, Transport for Wales has revealed a ten-year programme of major investments to improve the country’s transport network including three quarters of a billion pounds to electrify the core valley lines as part of the South Wales metro project, £800m to develop new faster, greener trains as well as £194m to improve existing stations and create five brand new stations. Protech Training Academy will provide learners with industry-standard training and mentorship, delivered at Coleg y Cymoedd’s £3m specialist rail engineering facility in Nantgarw, which includes a state-of-the-art indoor learning centre, full scale outdoor replica railway track and training facilities for overhead line electrification engineering. Alongside their training, learners will also complete hands-on experience through apprenticeships with Ganymede. The academy looks forward to supporting further labour providers and rail companies with their future recruitment and training needs. The programme has been developed to ensure learners leave the Protech Training Academy industry-ready with all the skills and knowledge they need to start their careers in the sector. Daniel Rivers, Managing Director at Protech Rail Engineering and Protech Training Academy, said: “With major investments in the rail industry happening all over the country, including the flagship HS2 project, multiple signalling and track renewals, as well as the valleys line transformation here in Wales, the sector presents huge opportunities for future employment. We want to play a role in training and supporting future talent and being based in South Wales, are keen to give back to the community and pass on our experience to young people in the region. Creating the Protech Training Academy will enable us to fulfil these ambitions. Our partnership will enable young people in South Wales to develop critically needed skills in a growing sector, helping them improve their employment prospects. It will also help facilitate our own growth as a business as we look to place a drive on our internal recruitment and bolster our team with apprentices in the years to come.” Following the completion of their training and apprenticeships, learners on the scheme will be able to start work in entry level positions as track operatives with the opportunity to work their way up to a whole host of roles including site managers, engineers, supervisors and health and safety officials. Stuart Fraser, Accounts Director at Ganymede, said: “Part of our strategy as a business is to create a sustainable supply chain and to work with local businesses and organisations. We are passionate about supporting the community around us and want to do all we can to help young people in South Wales develop successful careers. The UK rail industry is continuing to grow, and we are seeing increasing demand for skilled labour in the sector, so it offers a promising career path. We are excited to play a role in providing employment opportunities for the next generation via our apprenticeship scheme with Protech Training Academy and Coleg y Cymoedd.” Partnering with Protech Training Academy has enabled Coleg y Cymoedd to expand the qualifications it is able to provide to now offer a Level 2 and Level 3 in Rail Engineering and Track Maintenance, something it was previously unable to deliver, enabling learners interested in a career in the rail industry to develop their skills further. Matthew Tucker, Assistant Principal of Business Services at Coleg y Cymoedd added: “Our exciting new partnership with Protech Training Academy and Ganymede will enable us to ensure our rail centre continues to be at the forefront of creating skilled rail engineers, equipped with the knowledge and training needed for the challenges and requirements of the industry today. We are looking forward to having Ganymede join us as a key industry partner in providing crucial apprenticeships to learners at the academy. With major rail investment programmes planned for the next decade across Wales and further afield, we hope these learners will help to serve a large job market in South Wales."