Facebook - Birmingham Business Twitter - Birmingham Business Instagram - Birmingham Business
https://thebbrs.org/birmingham/ https://tailoredworkspaces.co.uk/

Driver training company secures funding

A Birmingham-based licensed train operating and driver training company has secured a £750,000 funding package to create new jobs roles, develop new products and bolster marketing strategy.

SLC Operations Limited (“SLCO”) received £500,000 from Midlands Engine Investment Fund’s (“MEIF”) West Midlands Debt Fund, managed by Maven Debt Finance, £250,000 from an existing investor, and backed by the Recovery Loan Scheme (“RLS”).

The funding will also help to create 28 skilled jobs in the region, doubling SLCO’s existing workforce of more than 20 staff.

SLCO hires qualified train drivers to passenger, freight, and track maintenance rail operators throughout the UK. Through its specialist training division, The Rail Academy, it delivers train driver training and support as well as End-Point Assessments for Level 3 train driver apprentices.

The new driver training provided by the Rail Academy will help to address this by increasing the number of driver instructors available and substantially reducing the time taken to train a new driver. SLCO is leading the industry by developing its own online learning platform and digital learning materials, supported by classroom-based activity where appropriate.

Other technology-led solutions include new 3D modelling and virtual reality traction training materials to enable the user to familiarise themselves remotely with any type of rolling stock they need to operate. SLCO is also developing a train route simulator that will allow train drivers to learn, recap and be tested on specific rail routes.

The company has secured notable contracts with the likes of Balfour Beatty and Colas Rail and most recently, following the achievement of its passenger operating licence, ran the UK’s first fully electric mainline passenger train at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) on behalf of Network Rail and VivaRail. 

SLCO is led by managing director Cath Bellamy who has almost 30 years of experience in the UK rail sector, previously holding managing director positions at Chiltern Railways, Hull Trains and Vintage Trains.

Cath said: “The last 12 months has been spent establishing the business, both from an operational and training perspective. We have also been successful breaking into the driver hire and training markets. Now, thanks to this new investment, we will actively develop the digital technologies and continue to grow our driver hire and training provision. With our new passenger licence, we can also start to engage with organisations and local authorities about their passenger service aspirations.”

Sajid Sabir, investment manager at Maven, said: “We are pleased to facilitate this investment in a business which is a genuine market innovator. SLCO’s tech-based approach presents a significant growth opportunity as well as addressing the shortage of train drivers in the rail sector. Its management team is highly experienced and boasts long-standing industry relationships, and we look forward to working with them to continue the growth which they have thus far managed to oversee despite the impact of the pandemic.”

Ryan Cartwright, senior manager at the British Business Bank, said: “As the MEIF continues to support the financial landscape for SMEs across the Midlands, it’s great to see another example of a business set to utilise this funding to create skilled jobs in the West Midlands region. In SLCO’s case, a further 28 skilled jobs are set to be created as a result of this new funding. We would encourage other businesses in the West Midlands looking to grow, to consider the funding options available through MEIF.”

Mike Lyons, board director for Improving Connectivity at Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP), said: “Like many sectors, the rail industry is undergoing a technical transformation. With this latest investment, SLCO will be one of the companies leading the way in using new, innovative ways to train and upskill new drivers. It highlights how investing in people is just as important as the track and trains. 

“We recognise the important role skills delivery plays in being a catalyst for economic recovery. That’s why ensuring people have the right skills for the right jobs is a major priority for GBSLEP. We will continue to work with our public, private and academic partners to deliver our skills programme and activities which includes a dedicated GBSLEP Skills and Apprenticeship Hub.”

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

The Recovery Loan Scheme is managed by the British Business Bank on behalf of, and with the financial backing of, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. British Business Bank plc is a development bank wholly owned by HM Government. It is not authorised or regulated by the PRA or the FCA.