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Super sewer machine starts work as first-of-its-kind tunnelling apprenticeship launched in UK

Super sewer machine starts work as first-of-its-kind tunnelling apprenticeship launched in UK

As the first machine digging London’s super sewer has started work, Tideway has announced twelve new apprenticeships are being offered to train the next generation of tunnellers.

Tunnelling on the 25km Thames Tideway Tunnel began today as Millicent, a tunnel boring machine (TBM) named after suffragist Millicent Fawcett, built the first ring at Kirtling Street in Battersea.

Construction of the super sewer, which will tackle sewage pollution in the River Thames, will create more than 4000 jobs in total - including more than 700 people working directly on, or in support of, tunnelling.

The Level 2 tunnelling apprenticeship was approved in January 2018, and this is the first time it has been offered in the industry, offering trainees a chance to learn tunnelling skills while studying at the same time.

Scott Young, Tideway’s Head of Skills and Employment, said: “This is the first opportunity to deliver a full cohort of tunnelling apprentices since the standard was approved in January. For our contractors and their wider supply chain to commit to employing these individuals and embedding them within their tunnelling gangs marks a major step forward for Tideway and we hope it will lead the way in delivering similar apprenticeships on major programmes in the future.

“With all of our contractors currently delivering their target of one apprentice for every 50 site employees, this scheme is an opportunity to bring people from diverse backgrounds into part of the industry where we have previously struggled to make vocational routes work effectively. This programme is about showing the range of varied occupations in our sector that offer a rewarding career and potentially global travel for many years into the future for the successful candidates.”

Mark Sneesby, Chief Operating Officer for Tideway, said: “Laying the first ring on the Thames Tideway Tunnel is a huge milestone that we’ve been working towards for more than a year. While you might have spotted our sites above ground along the River Thames, our team underground are now also in full swing as they start digging the 25km super sewer that will help clean up our river.

“It’s fantastic we’re able to mark this event by announcing a new apprenticeship, which will allow a new generation of tunnellers to train alongside some of the most highly skilled and experienced people in the construction industry, ensuring we have the right abilities for future infrastructure projects.”

Tom Lane who works on the Tideway West contract and is Chair of the Industry Trailblazer Group, which oversaw development of the new Apprenticeship standard, said: “The Tunnelling Operative apprenticeship has been a few years in the making but hopefully, in partnership with a proactive training provider, the apprenticeship will provide a valuable pathway for attracting new talent into the industry.”

Juan Martinez, Tunnelling Project Manager at Kirtling Street, said: “Today is a momentous occasion for us as we switch on the first TBM on the Thames Tideway Tunnel, taking us one step closer in our mission to clean up the River Thames. Such a large-scale project like the Thames Tideway Tunnel requires a huge range of skills, and it’s great to see Tideway working towards developing the next generation of tunnellers to ensure we can continue delivering vital infrastructure in the future.”

The Thames Tideway Tunnel has been divided into three sections – east, west and central – with each section being constructed by a different joint venture of contractors.

Millicent is one of two TBMs that will build the 13km central section of the main tunnel, while two more machines will dig the 7km west section and the 5.5km east section.

Two smaller TBMs will also dig the 1.1km Frogmore Connection Tunnel in Wandsworth and the 4.6km Greenwich Connection Tunnel.

Four tunnelling apprenticeships are being offered by each of the joint ventures. By the end of the apprenticeship, individuals will be competent tunnelling operatives able to assist with the excavation, support and forming of tunnels and shafts. They will learn typical tunnelling methods such as hand tunnelling, machine tunnelling, pipejacking, sprayed concrete lining, shaft sinking and drill and blast. 

To find out more information about the apprenticeship, contact TunnelSkills at [email protected]To register your interest in the apprenticeship role, upload your CV on BuildLondon. Attraction and assessment events for the positions will be held by Tideway employers early in the new year.