Sir John Armitt, president of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), who is widely considered to be one of the greatest living civil engineers, oversaw delivery of the venues and infrastructure for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
He also knows a thing or two about rail, having been the Chief Executive of Network Rail, and instrumental in the delivery of HS1, the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. He is a member of the National Infrastructure Commission and is also leading ICE's independent national needs assessment which will set out the UK's infrastructure needs up to 2050 and different options for how these needs could be delivered.
The Newcastle College Rail Academy is a £5m facility that offers a unique training environment to help the rail sector overcome skills shortages, by providing vocationally trained students ready to start a career in industry.
At the Rail Academy, Sir John met apprentices studying there and was given a tour of the cutting edge facilities, which fully simulate all aspects of a working rail environment on a single site.
ICE president Sir John Armitt said: "The UK's infrastructure, including the North East's transport network, is critical to the country's economic success and quality of life, but we need a skilled and diverse workforce to deliver it - both now and in the coming decades. This is why outstanding facilities like Newcastle College Rail Academy, which deliver the rail engineers of the future -are so vital.
"The young people I have met at the Rail Academy today are at the start of a journey into an exciting, rewarding career. Apprenticeships like this offer a unique gateway into the industry – a chance to really experience all aspects of work in the rail sector while getting paid. At ICE, we welcome aspiring professional engineers and technicians into our membership and support them, as they progress towards a professional qualification. I hope to see the talented apprentices I have met today reach the top and enjoy a lifelong career in engineering just as I have."