THE first intake of apprentices have been welcomed to the new Kidderminster Rail Academy.

More than 200 potential candidates had applied to the Kidderminster Station-based academy and 27 began their training yesterday.

One of the largest suppliers of training services to the rail, energy, mechanical and electrical and construction sectors, Vital Skills Training has developed the apprenticeships in partnership with Severn Valley Railway (SVR).

Vital is looking to recruit 32 more apprentices within the next six months. The specialist rail engineering arm of Vital Services Group made a commitment to significantly increase the number of apprentices it employs in 2012 and the new training facility will support learners working on rail projects across the West Midlands.

Located at SVR, the academy has training facilities for 32 learners at any one time. The 17 to 24-year-old apprentices will learn the theory side of their apprenticeship in classrooms and then put it into practice on a specialist training railway line before progressing to work on the railway network.

When qualified, apprentices will earn a starting salary of £16,000 to £20,000, with further opportunities for progression with Vital Rail.

Vital, which has offices across the country, has specially targeted the area to create opportunities for local unemployed people and tackle high levels of youth unemployment.

Lawrence Dobie, education and training director at Vital Services Group, said: “We are delighted that we have been able to open a regional training centre with Severn Valley Railway, which will provide a specialist facility for learners to develop their skills in rail engineering.

“Over the next few years there will be high levels of investment in the UK’s rail industry, which will create a need for a skilled local workforce, so we’re acting now in a bid to get ahead of the curve.

“By providing and generating opportunities for young people, we can help them to broaden their horizons and develop the skills they need to make the most out of what can be a long and rewarding career.”

Nick Ralls, general manager at SVR, added: “Vital Rail has an impressive track record in delivering training across the rail sector and we are delighted to be launching this training in partnership with them.”

To find out more about the training opportunities available from Vital visit or call 0161 836 7024.