The Smart Alternative: Introducing the Certificate of Higher Education



On Thursday 17th August, hundreds of thousands of students across the UK will receive their A-Level results. Many will already know their next move, and others will go through the clearing process to find a place at university.

But if you’re still not sure what you’re doing next, then clearing isn’t the only alternative. The next step after school is no longer a simple choice between university and going straight to employment – with a greater than ever range of vocational study options, apprenticeships, and skills courses now available.

This is where the National College for High Speed Rail comes in. One of five new National Colleges being set up by the government to develop skills for industry, we’re dedicated to building a workforce prepared to lead the new era of rail travel in the UK and overseas. And among the courses we have available when we open our doors in Birmingham and Doncaster next month is a Certificate of Higher Education in High Speed Rail and Infrastructure.

The title may be long, but the concept is simple: it’s an introduction to the high speed rail sector, giving you a great foundation to build on if you decide to go on and specialise in this industry. It’s a Level 4 qualification, which will then set you up to go on to a Higher Technical Diploma or Foundation Degree.

Doncaster and Birmingham campuses at the National College for High Speed Rail

So why is the National College such a smart alternative to university? Well, vocational qualifications are increasingly seen as a more reliable route to get straight into a career than traditional academic learning. We offer skills training that is specifically designed to help you on the way to a career in engineering: our courses are developed with industry partners, so we know we’re creating the kind of employees they’re actively looking for.

What’s more, you’ll get hands-on, practical experience with real life equipment – such as our fantastic #DonnyStar and #BrumStar trains. Donated to the college by Eurostar and manufactured by Alstom, these are two authentic Class 373 high speed trains that have been fitted out to include a virtual reality learning experience.

#DonnyStar train arriving at the National College campus in Doncaster

And our teaching isn’t just limited to our state-of-the-art campuses, either  – while you study the Cert HE you’ll be mentored by an employer, spending a third of your time on a work placement. Work experience in real engineering environments will give you the perfect start to hit the ground running when you move on to a career in the industry.

The rail industry in the UK is only growing, with work on HS2 – the new high-speed link between London, the West Midlands and the North – scheduled to begin this year. But the UK currently has a shortfall in engineers and other STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) specialists of around 20,000 per year – so this is the perfect opportunity for young people to step up and become a new generation of highly employable engineers.

The course includes units on management of the railway; health and safety; social, environmental and economic considerations; the digital railway; and introductions to major railway principles such as track and civil engineering, power and rolling stock and command, control and communications (CCC). It’s a perfect “way in” to the industry that will set you up for whatever specialism you may choose to go on and follow.

There are a number of ways you might be eligible to study this new course. Typically, we would expect applicants to have either two A-Levels at Grade C, a BTEC National Diploma in an appropriate subject, or equivalent qualifications. But we evaluate every application on its individual merits, so if our high speed future appeals to you, do get in touch even if you don’t hold these exact qualifications.

Doors are opening next month – so there’s no better time to get onboard and see what the National College can do for you. If you’re still considering your options, or if you’re already keen to explore a future in rail and engineering, then don’t waste any time – get in touch with us now and choose the smart alternative.

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