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College of West Anglia students on track for engineering careers



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Students from the College of West Anglia have been turning civil engineering theory into practice by planning, building and operating a section of railway line.

The project, called the Brunel Line, took place at the Constructionarium bespoke training site at Bircham Newton using real construction materials, processes and plant.

Over the five days on site, students surveyed the route, designed the railway line, cuttings and embankments, planned and carried out the construction of the 90 metres of track, assembled a bridge and lifted it into position – and then rode the train along the track.

MP James Wild (front) with other guests, College of West Anglia students and staff involved in the project MLNF-22PM07003
MP James Wild (front) with other guests, College of West Anglia students and staff involved in the project MLNF-22PM07003

As the week drew to a close, the Constructionarium team and students welcomed visitors to site to see the learning in action and to help them celebrate the success of the project.

Jane Burton, course director at the College of West Anglia, said it gave the students “the unique opportunity to sample first hand the world of rail civil engineering in a safe environment.”

She said: “As the week has unfolded, we have seen the learning crystalising in the students' minds, their individual personal growth and maturity, sitting alongside the experience of working as a team cohesively to deliver a successful conclusion. I have no doubt that this learning has been of real benefit. We look forward to returning in the autumn with a second group.”

Testinng the track with a trial run were MP James Wild (right) and (from left)Julia Stevens (Constructionarium chief executive), Nicol Sinclair (head of B+CE Charitable Trust and Construction Industry Liason), Rt. Hon. Nick Raynsford (Constructionarium board member). MLNF-22PM07001
Testinng the track with a trial run were MP James Wild (right) and (from left)Julia Stevens (Constructionarium chief executive), Nicol Sinclair (head of B+CE Charitable Trust and Construction Industry Liason), Rt. Hon. Nick Raynsford (Constructionarium board member). MLNF-22PM07001

One of the visitors was North-West Norfolk MP James Wild.

He said: “Constructionarium is a great organisation that is providing practical opportunities for young people to gain valuable experience and skills. It was encouraging to see the team work and enthusiasm among the students as they successfully delivered this project. With demand high, there has not been a better time for school and college leavers to consider a career in construction.

“This industry has a vital role to play in helping our economy grow and it is through initiatives such as Constructionarium that we can ensure the next generation of people entering the workforce have the skills to improve the sector in the coming decades.”

The students also had the opportunity to meet Nick Raynsford, former deputy chairman of Crossrail and current board member of Constructionarium.

Guests watch the track being given a test run. MLNF-22PM07002
Guests watch the track being given a test run. MLNF-22PM07002

On handing out the completion certificates, he said “Whenever I visit the Constructionarium site I am impressed with the calibre of talent I meet. The knowledge, skills and H and S behaviours that the students have learnt and demonstrate at the end of the week are unrivalled. They each will take away with them a practical toolkit that they can use in their future educational choices and/or careers.

“This week has been a sample of working in the rail industry albeit on a scaled version. The students should be very pleased with what they have achieved, and it was very rewarding to see them ride the train in celebration”.

The guests were invited by Constructionarium to see this project in action and for an update on their plans for developing their site into a multi-disciplinary training facility.

Julia Stevens, CEO of Constructionarium, had briefed the visitors about Constructionarium’s history.

Established to address a skills gap for graduates entering the industry with no site experience, it now sees in excess of 850 students a year. It has a portfolio of large scaled replicas of iconic projects such as The Gherkin, Millau Cable Bridge, Barcelona Tower which are constructed in a week and provides real context to the learning undertaken at college and university; alongside providing a raft of personal and employability skills.

The project was funded by B&CE, a pension provider in the construction industry, and is the first of three funded events to provide practical skills for college students.



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