Louis Jones

Louis Jones

Alstom, a world leader in integrated transport systems, recently opened the UK’s largest, state-of-the-art centre for train modernisation in Widnes giving a major boost to the rail industry in the North West of England.

Liverpool City Region Combined Authority has contributed £3.4 million in funding to help Alstom to create the groudbreaking facility, where it will fulfil a €28 million contract to repaint the 56-strong fleet of Pendolino trains, used by Virgin on the West Coast Main line.

Five of the area’s enthusiastic young apprentices – studying engineering at the nearby Riverside College – have recently started on their paths to a career in high-tech engineering, learning future-proof skills thay will set them up for life.

“We all really enjoyed engineering at college” explains Evan Purvis, “and are determined to make the most of this opportunity. There’s always something different to learn, as the technology behind trains such as the Pendolino is so groundbreaking.”

“We’re still in the early stages of our apprenticeships at the moment, learning how to repaint the trains when they come into the depot . In a year’s time we’ll be working on the electrics and the interiors. By the end of our training we will be ‘safety critical’, which means we’ll be able to work unsupervised on the trains; a major responsibility in our careers that none of us take lightly.”

“Having a job with prospects here on our doorsteps is quite amazing.” adds apprentice Louis Jones. “You can cycle to work and keep costs down while you’re learning. It’s because of opportunities such as this that we can stay in the Liverpool City Region and not have to leave home to move to other cities for education or employment.”

With the very definition of engineering changing as the country changes its transport requirements, it’s crucial that global businesses such as Alstom are encouraged to set up base in towns like Widnes. It’s their ability to offer career opportunities for local young people and a specialist expertise that will help bridge the UK’s engineering skills gap and make us even more competitive on a global platform.

Devolution offers us, as a city region, the opportunity to look to the future; upskilling our young people to ensure they’re ready and able to help us compete on a global platform.

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