The first new FE college in England for almost two decades is to be set up to train engineers for the controversial High Speed 2 rail project, it was announced today.
Plans for the new college were unveiled by business secretary Vince Cable, who said that it would deliver the specialist training and qualifications needed for the High Speed 2 (HS2) and other infrastructure projects.
It will offer technical training including rail engineering, environmental skills and construction.
The location of the college has not yet been decided, but a government spokesman confirmed to TES it would be “in proximity” to the proposed line.
The college is expected to be up and running by 2017, when construction of HS2 is due to start. Costs have not yet been revealed.
The news was given a cautious welcome by the Association of Colleges, but chief executive Martin Doel said that more detail was needed.
“The fact that the new college will be focused on providing much needed skills and technical expertise in industry-standard facilities is equally important and welcome,” he said.
“We look forward, however, to understanding more of the detail, not least so far as value for money is concerned, against the alternative of an existing college taking on the task of meeting the needs of HS2 by upgrading or adapting existing facilities.”
The contentious HS2 proposal is the largest infrastructure project of the coalition government and it is estimated that it will cost around £43 billion.
The first phase will link London and the Midlands, while the second phase will see lines built to Manchester and Leeds.
But there has been strong public opposition to the project, as well as from a number of senior politicians and local authorities along the planned route.
The government said that the new college would provide training in how to make the most of cutting edge technology and use state-of-the-art equipment to deliver programmes designed specifically for the HS2 project.
It will also build relationships with a network of affiliated facilities, including existing colleges, private training providers, HE institutions and major supply networks.
Mr Cable said that it was right that such a large scale investment in bricks and mortar should come with investment in the “elite skills” needed to build it.
Skills minister Matthew Hancock added that it was “vital” that action was taken now to make sure that there are enough skilled people to build the line and that as many jobs as possible go to British workers.
HS2 chairman David Higgins said that the project would give the chance to “rebalance” the national skills base.
Up to 2,000 new apprentices could be created during the lifetime of construction.