The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has launched an Inland Rail Skills Academy aimed at creating opportunities for communities along the alignment throughout Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

The ground-breaking initiative aims to create education, training, skills development and employment opportunities, as well as building prosperity and sustainability, for residents in communities along the Inland Rail alignment.

Inland Rail Chief Executive Officer, Richard Wankmuller, said Inland Rail is set to not only change the way Australia moves freight between all mainland states, but act as a catalyst for positive change in many regional communities.

“Inland Rail will mean a new economic direction for some of these communities,” Mr Wankmuller said.

“A major focus will be on building skills so that people and businesses are ready to take part in this once-in-a-generation project and the Inland Rail Skills Academy is a catalyst to help them achieve that.

“We need to have people ready to undertake the work, businesses ready to bid for the work and regional communities along the alignment to capitalise on the opportunities this will bring their future workforces.

“The Inland Rail Skills Academy is about facilitating opportunities for those willing to take that step.”

The Academy consists of a series of partnerships with expert organisations such as training providers, government program delivery agencies and the private sector.

These partnerships will facilitate access by individuals to services which provide technical training and wrap-around support, accreditation for existing skills or introducing new training pathways as needed, as well as increasing access to existing upskilling programs for suppliers of goods and services.

Another key component of the Academy will be its ability to provide relevant and timely information and address gaps to ensure regional businesses are well informed and able to compete for supply chain opportunities.

The areas of focus for the Inland Rail Skills Academy are:

Skills training and business capacity building

ARTC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Australasian Railway Association at the 2019 Inland Rail Conference in Toowoomba, committing to combine their expertise to address skilled labour shortages in rail construction, maintenance and operations of freight rail as well as build the capacity of freight supply chains.

The ARA is the peak body for the rail sector, with over 150 member companies, covering rail freight and passenger operations, track owners and managers, contractors (those that build track infrastructure), train manufacturers and suppliers, consultants and other companies that work in rail.

A key objective of the MOU will be to ensure any training pathways into occupations are the right ones for industry employers through apprenticeships and traineeships in rail related disciplines in regions along the alignment.

A second objective will be to build the capacity of small to medium enterprises in regional communities to participate in the Inland Rail supply chain.

Education, particularly in STEM subjects and related careers

Twenty undergraduate scholarships will be made available through the University of Southern Queensland, Charles Sturt University and La Trobe University to support local students to study in industries contributing to their region’s prosperity and social cohesion.

A total of seven scholarships will be awarded through two application rounds – 2019 and 2020 (three to four scholarships awarded each round). Successful applicants are required to start study within the next calendar year.
Each scholarship covers:

  • $5000 per full-time year of study (a max of $20,000 in total), paid in six monthly increments of $2500
  • $1000 during their first year to help with additional costs e.g. moving

In addition to financial support, students will be provided with mentoring, soft-skill development, career readiness, wellbeing/cultural support and other assistance aimed at supporting them to successfully complete their degree.

The scholarships are available to students undertaking full-time undergraduate degree qualifications. Students can be school leavers through to mature age.

The scholarship program captures a broad range of study disciplines related to regional sustainability, regional careers and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Regional students living in local government areas along the Inland Rail alignment, Indigenous people and those experiencing financial/personal hardship are strongly encouraged to apply for assistance.

The Inland Rail Skills Academy will also promote STEM education, through primary and secondary schools, allowing students to participate in a series of hands-on workshops which aim to inspire learning in STEM and interest in careers commencing in 2020.

STudent CSU

Increasing staff capability

The Academy will also help to develop Rail Employee Capability, focusing on enabling ARTC employees to upgrade their skills and qualifications to deliver Inland Rail.

Inland Rail Project Engineer, Penny Nugent, is working on the Gowrie to Helidon section of the Inland Rail and joined ARTC for the experience of working on a once-in-a-generation project.

“I have been a civil engineer for nearly six years and joined ARTC 15 months ago,” Ms Nugent said.

“The main reason I joined the Inland Rail project was to gain further experience in the design and planning of rail infrastructure, in particular tunnelling experience.

“This project will expose me to a whole new level of complex challenges, and I am looking forward to working on the tunnel that is going to be built through the Great Dividing Range… this is an amazing project to be a part of.

“The skills I will gain during the next few years will prepare me to work on other major infrastructure projects in Australia or worldwide. There are a number of major projects in the pipeline around Australia at present, so it is an exciting time to be involved in the infrastructure industry.”

Ms Nugent said working for Inland Rail will open up a range of career opportunities for her to work in infrastructure and the transport industry.

“At community engagement sessions, I get a whole range of questions about the opportunities this project will deliver, and I am confident in voicing the benefits it will bring to the region, including training and skills development opportunities.”

MOU training

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