Crossrail has completed the structural building work on the UK Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy (TUCA). Crossrail and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have invested up to US$20M in the Academy, which will train at least 3,500 people to work on Crossrail. The Academy, which will open in September this year, will include a simulated TBM environment, a SCL training facility, workshop space and teaching rooms.
Located at Aldersbrook in East London, TUCA aims to address the shortage of people with the necessary skills to work on Crossrail and other major tunnelling projects in London and across the UK, as well as the potential to assist European projects including Dublin Metro.
It will provide training on the key skills required to work in tunnel excavation and underground construction. The only other tunnelling training facility in Europe is located in Switzerland.
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A ‘topping out’ ceremony has been held as the building is now water-tight. Work will now get underway to fit-out the Academy and turn it into a state of the art training facility. The Academy’s size extends to 3,600 sq. metres to provide sufficient space for the facilities required to safely train people to work in underground construction.
Terry Morgan, Chairman of Crossrail, said, “Two years on from the start of main construction, and with the first tunnel boring machine starting out on its journey in less than a year from now, we are concentrating our efforts to provide people with the necessary skills to build this great railway.
“Crossrail has a vital role to play in supporting wider regeneration as well as creating a major skills legacy. The new Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy is not only a UK first but will support the economy by equipping workers with the specialist skills they need to meet the demand for labour in this area, both for Crossrail and for other major infrastructure projects. It will completely revitalise the UK’s skills base and raise safety standards across the construction industry.”
Rail Minister Theresa Villiers said, “While the Crossrail project will transform rail travel for London and deliver significant benefits to the UK economy, this new academy will revolutionise the UK’s labour market by training a new generation of highly specialised underground construction workers able to work on major global tunnelling infrastructure projects.”
TUCA will start to offer training this summer and the building will be fully open by September 2011. The Academy will offer training to at least 3,500 people over the lifetime of the Crossrail project. It will then operate as an independent organisation and become a long-term provider of underground construction skills for other major infrastructure projects. The Academy will also act as the London centre for the National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering (NSARE).
There is currently no standardised training provision for those in the tunnelling industry, with the majority of new entrants trained on the job. TUCA will provide an opportunity for nationally-accredited technical and safety training, to ensure that underground safety awareness and best practice are prioritised and standardised across the industry. All those working underground on Crossrail will be required to obtain a Tunnel Safety Card before they can start work. This is a specially developed health and safety test which has become a specialist unit of the nationally recognised Construction Skills Certification Scheme Health and Safety Test. This will be one of the first training products on offer from summer 2011.
Besides the Tunnel Safety Card, by September 2011 training at TUCA will include the NVQ Level 2 in Tunnelling Operations and NVQ Level 3 in Tunnelling Operations Supervisory Skills. All the training will be delivered by a specialist skills provider who is expected to be appointed next month.
The majority of students attending the academy will come from the contractor’s existing workforce but Crossrail is working with the Department for Work and Pensions and the Skills Funding Agency to support the delivery of pre-employment training opportunities, which will offer new entrants a route into the industry.
Crossrail is committed to delivering a minimum of 400 apprenticeships through its supply chain over the lifetime of the project, and is looking to deliver more. All main works contractors are obliged to deliver one apprentice (or equivalent) per US$4.8M spend. Crossrail is working in partnership with the National Apprenticeship Service to support contractors employed on Crossrail in delivering apprenticeship programmes.