HS2 pushes forward with ambition to train next generation as new centre opens in Bucks

two men in a training facility

(News release HS2:) London, 16 November 2022 – HS2 Ltd is today [Wednesday 16 November] highlighting the project’s impact in helping to train the next generation of engineers and construction workers in Britain, as it celebrates the opening of a new dedicated Operator Skills Hub in Buckinghamshire.

  • HS2 jobs and contracts provided a vital lifeline to people and local businesses during the pandemic – and continues to boost local economies across the UK. Project now supporting almost 30,000 jobs and nearly 1,000 apprenticeships.
  • New Operator Skills Hub in Westbury, Buckinghamshire is already training over 100 new recruits from the local area, demonstrating HS2’s commitment to working with the local community and upskilling residents.
  • Minister for Skills Robert Halfon MP: ‘We want local people to benefit from huge projects like HS2, and this new training centre … will support more adults to gain the skills they need to secure good jobs in sectors like construction and transport.’

The UK’s foremost levelling-up project is now supporting almost 30,000 jobs, with many tens of thousands more jobs supported throughout the UK-wide supply chain of over 2,700 businesses, 97 per cent of which are UK-based. In addition, the project has supported almost 2,500 previously unemployed people into jobs, and every year HS2 Ltd renews our commitment to taking on more apprentices and graduates, doubling our intake of grads during the pandemic. There are now just over 990 apprentices working on HS2.

The highlighting of HS2’s impact on training the country’s next generation comes as Flannery Plant Hire has joined forces with HS2’s construction partner EKFB (a team made up of Eiffage, Kier, Ferrovial Construction and BAM Nuttall), to create a new training centre in Bucks that can upskill local people ready for jobs on HS2 in as little as two weeks.

Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education Robert Halfon said: ‘We want local people to benefit from huge projects like HS2, and this new training centre will open up the ladder of opportunity to those who want to upskill or retrain in Bucks and Northants. Skills Bootcamps are at the heart of our ambitious skills agenda, delivering high quality training that will support more adults to gain the skills they need to secure good jobs in sectors like construction and transport.’

The purpose-built Operator Skills Hub, which has opened its doors and is already training over 100 new recruits, includes a 16-seat classroom, three indoor plant simulators and a four-acre outdoor space for practical training and assessments.

Flannery Plant Hire secured funding from the Department for Education to deliver a broad range of training programmes, including its two-week ‘Skills Bootcamp’ in plant operations, which is free to local residents over the age of 19. The two-week programme provides all the training and accreditation needed to start work as a plant operator and is designed to support those most in need, or who are looking for a career change, to develop new skills and secure employment in record time.

Jhen-Nel Swanston, HS2’s Skills Manager for the region said: The new Operator Skills Hub will allow local residents, and those who are out of work, to access free training and develop skills for life, which they can quickly put to use in well-paid jobs in the immediate area. We have an extensive construction programme ahead of us and shortage of skilled plant operatives from the local area, which means our construction partners and their contractors are offering long-term opportunities with fantastic career development.’

The Operator Skills Hub will also deliver 12-month Trailblazer apprenticeships, which provide candidates with the skills and certification needed to operate four different types of plant machinery. Upskilling opportunities are also available, which ensures the Hub is accessible to anyone in the local area who wants to progress or start a new career in plant operations.

Patrick Flannery, Managing Director of Flannery Plant Hire said: ‘We're delighted to be opening the Bucks Operator Skills Hub. This will support local people to enter the construction sector, where there are significant skills and employment shortages, by gaining the skills to become a highly effective Plant Operator.  We have worked collaboratively with many key stakeholders to get this established, including the Bucks LEP, EKFB and the DFE. We look forward to it being a huge success.’

The Skills Hub has the capacity to deliver 400 Skills Bootcamp trainees and 100 Trailblazer apprenticeships every year, and the team behind the new centre hope to attract a further 200 people onto their bespoke two-week Skills Bootcamp over the next five months.

The Hub is seen as a vital component in addressing local skills shortages and in creating the lasting skills legacy that HS2 set out to achieve. Through its broad range of training programmes, the Skills Hub will create a pipeline of talent capable of supporting not just HS2’s construction, but other local and major infrastructure projects of the future.

Emmanuel Rossigno, Programme Director at EKFB said: ‘The Skills Hub is a fantastic initiative and we’re pleased to see it doing so well. Being able to provide quality, hands on training and experience to local people and those wishing to enhance their skills is important to EKFB. We want to leave a skills legacy that will improve people’s lives, as well as bring more people into the project. We will need thousands of skilled plant operatives to help build the new railway and Flannery, EKFB and HS2 are providing an opportunity for people to be part of this once in a lifetime project, as well as equipping them with desirable transferable skills for the future.’

Recognising the vital role that the Operator Skills Hub will play in upskilling the next generation and supporting Bucks residents into employment, the region’s Skills Advisory Panel has supported the Hub by providing funding for a complementary mobile training centre.

Richard Harrington, CEO of Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: ‘We were delighted to support Flannery with £750k Getting Building Funding to support the establishment of the Bucks Operator Skills Hub. This scheme will support local people to access the skills required to get sustainable employment in the construction sector, including future skill areas such as GPS training, virtual reality plant simulators and remote management systems on the most advanced construction equipment.’

For more information about the Operator Skills Hub, or to register an interest in joining its training programmes click here or visit Flanneryplanthire.com.

Click here for the original news release.