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The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has embarked upon an ambitious plan to regenerate the region and to provide new opportunities for residents and businesses.
Central to this plan is the expansion of the West Midlands Metro network which will triple in size by 2026, providing high quality, safe and dependable travel across the West Midlands.
The Midland Metro Alliance is working on behalf of the WMCA and Transport for West Midlands to develop, design and deliver the extensions.
The region is seeing the highest levels of investment in the transportation sector for decades, with the extension of the West Midlands Metro and the work for HS2.
Within construction there is a need to address an increasingly aging workforce, and to also engage with the education community, to ensure that students are aware of the wide variety of exciting career paths available to them within the sector.
The Midland Metro Alliance is keen that local communities benefit not only once the extensions are open for passenger service, but also during construction and as such has been working with education providers in the region since it formed in 2016.
Sector-Based Work Academies
The Midland Metro Alliance’s award winning sector based work academies, which were created in partnership with local authorities, colleges, Jobcentre Plus and the Department for Work and Pensions, have helped upskill local people in the region, providing many with their first opportunity to gain experience in the construction and highways sectors.
The courses, which ran in spring 2017, saw 50 local people receive accredited qualifications (and a guaranteed job interview with the Midland Metro Alliance) through the completion of a six-week course.
Twenty-six of those who completed the course were employed by alliance partners and the majority of these then worked on and were monumental in ensuring the Bilston Road Track Replacement project in Wolverhampton, which was the biggest light rail project in the UK in 2017, completed ahead of schedule.
Furthermore, JobCentre Plus recognised this specific programme as being a major contributing factor to a fall in unemployment in Wolverhampton last year.
Connecting Futures Careers Roadshows The Midland Metro Alliance Training team recognised misconceptions surrounding the sector at job fairs and career events so developed an initiative to address these issues by educating young people, parents and teachers through delivery of sector specific career advice.
The ‘Connecting Futures in the West Midlands’ roadshows were held over six days in March 2018 and visited by more than 2,000 young people.
Over 40 industry colleagues were keen to collaborate in the initiative, recognising the value and benefits to their own organisations in attending the roadshows, including HS2, Virgin Trains and Morgan Sindall.
As the sector is very diverse, so too are the opportunities available.
Visitors to the roadshows heard about routes to careers in design, engineering and construction, as you might expect, but were also able to learn about business administration, procurement, finance, human resources, IT, engagement and other areas.
Attendees could speak to people currently employed in these roles and find out what qualifications were most advantageous.
They were able to hear first-hand accounts of skills shortages and why careers in civils, transport or construction are exciting and rewarding.
In January, the Midland Metro Alliance was given the go-ahead from the Institute for Apprenticeships to develop an apprenticeship standard for Tramway Construction Operative.
Work has begun on developing the standards and support resources, and once agreed, employers could start to train the first apprentices as early as February 2019.
Input from employers across the industry is crucial to ensure that the new apprenticeship will provide the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to undertake Metro construction and renewal work in complex urban environments.
Celebrated for creating opportunities for the young
In addition, the Midland Metro Alliance has been awarded the Talent Match Mark Award status at gold level.
This accreditation celebrates the commitment that the alliance has made in offering work experience and employment opportunities to young people in the region.
The Talent Match Mark was launched by Talent Match and Youth Employment UK in 2017, with funding from the Big Lottery Fund.
The accreditation draws on the principles of youth friendly employment created in 2012.
Support for young people is part of the corporate culture
The work to provide learning opportunities has had a positive effect on all teams within the Midland Metro Alliance with staff members sharing and launching new opportunities in local communities.
Recently two graduates, currently working on the Wolverhampton City Centre Metro Extension, headed back to school at the West Midlands University Technical College in Wolverhampton, to support students with a light rail construction module.
The module was designed to teach students, aged 14-18 years, about construction of tramways in a city environment.
The college’s lessons are a mix of classroom learning and practical construction experience, so in order for the construction element of the course to be completed safely at West Midlands UTC’s Springfield Campus, the alliance donated test track which was used in the planning stages of the Bilston Road Track Replacement project.
The Year 10 and 12 students continued their studies with the graduates throughout the 2017/18 summer term with the project concluding with presentations on their proposals for hypothetical Metro extensions in Wolverhampton.
The students had to justify the viability of routes with considerations on usage, cost, sustainability and safety of operation.
Rose Rees, Midland Metro Alliance Training and Development Manager, said: “An important route to maintain a knowledgeable and sustainable workforce is to invest in it.
The work that we are doing, including careers guidance, training opportunities and more formal schemes like apprenticeships are important ways to secure the future talent for the region.
We are delighted to be leading on these initiatives.
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