For a long time the formidable Curzon Street Station was the gateway from Birmingham to London and a vibrant heart through which the goods, entrepreneurs and passengers of the ‘city of a thousand trades’ flowed onto our Victorian railways.
Yet since 1966 the iconic building has been all but abandoned, a forgotten symbol of Birmingham’s industrial power.
Today, the great red doors of the world’s oldest railway terminal are set to re-open as the first part of a brand new high speed station, and the message is clear; Birmingham is once again the driving force behind prosperity in the heart of our country.
HS2 will transform Curzon Street into Birmingham’s largest building, with seven platforms delivering high-speed journeys to London, the North West, North East and on to Scotland to connect eight of our country’s ten great cities.
Visiting the site, we both saw the huge benefits HS2 will deliver – giving passengers faster, more frequent trains with better connections and freeing up thousands of seats on commuter services.
HS2 will also unlock economic growth and regeneration, helping release the potential of our Midlands Engine.
The infectious energy of some of this country’s biggest companies, who are already moving to the Midlands with plans to expand and seize the opportunities on offer, will drive forward the creation of new jobs and businesses.
HS2 is already helping attract world-class businesses to base themselves and invest in cities outside London – with companies like HSBC, Jaguar Land Rover and BBC Three already in Birmingham and others looking at a future in the West Midlands.
Yet the legacy of HS2 won’t just be revitalised historic landmarks, new business headquarters and a surge in weekend trips from Birmingham to Glasgow.
All that architecture and industry needs a new generation of innovators. Today we jointly commit to doing everything we can to ensure HS2 helps encourage the engineers of the future.
HS2 alone will create 2,000 skilled apprenticeships, offering young people a brilliant career working on a project essential to the future of our country.
Families in Birmingham and the West Midlands used to want their children to get jobs in London. But we want HS2 to change that perception.
The young apprentices at the National College for High Speed Rail in Birmingham will train 1,200 students every single year, using cutting-edge technology and world-class teaching to get the qualifications and experience they need to build our future railway.
Yet the UK faces a major challenge – we are desperately short of engineers.
We need 186,000 engineers every year until 2024 and there is a shortage of 20,000 engineering graduates a year.
Today’s apprentices must not only build HS2 and lead the way on the rail infrastructure projects of the future, but must inspire even more young people to consider a career in engineering.
That is why the brilliant students of the National College are at the heart of the government’s Year of Engineering campaign, helping school children experience engineering for themselves to inspire the engineers of the future.
Companies across the Midlands, from Ocado to Rolls Royce, Bombardier to Birmingham City University, have signed up to be part of this campaign.
From leading the way for robotics and automation in retail, to developing cleaner, more efficient ways to get around, these companies show just how diverse a career in engineering can be.
Because there can be no doubt, diversity is one of the crucial issues we must tackle in the Year of Engineering.
The engineering workforce has been 91 per cent male and 94 per cent white. In 2017, women were only eight percent of engineering apprenticeships.
In an industry that ranges from aerospace and artificial intelligence, to media and medicine we need our future engineers to reflect the diversity of talent and experience all around us.
The National College is at the vanguard of the change we want to see, with over a fifth of the students from underrepresented groups, such as women or ethnic minorities.
This is not just about creating a new workforce ready to lead on the major projects of the future.
It is about making sure we engage the full range of talent and show that no matter your gender, ethnicity or upbringing, there is a job ready and waiting to match your skills and ambition.
It is our job to ensure that the benefits of HS2 are fully realised.
The city of a thousand trades stands ready to seize the opportunity, add yet another string to its bow and be at the forefront of producing the engineers of tomorrow.