Fast Trackers engineering project shortlisted for prestigious award

A project which aims to produce the engineers of the future by creating opportunities for young people in the North West has been shortlisted for a prestigious educational award.

Fast Trackers, a National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP) initiative developed by Greater Manchester Higher, Higher Horizons+ and Future U, is nominated for the Business/Industry Collaboration accolade at the 2019 Educate North Awards.

Delivered by Network Rail and Mott MacDonald, the project launched in 2018 in response to the demand for engineering skills due to increasing rail passenger numbers and the development of High Speed Two (HS2), while inspiring students on level three engineering courses to continue onto higher education.

It saw 140 students from across Lancashire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Staffordshire visiting employers including ALSTOM, Unipart Rail and Siemens to explore graduate employment opportunities, in addition to Professional Engineering Institutions including the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).

The 16 and 17-year-old students also took part in team-based projects held at University College London, earning Industrial Cadets gold awards from the Engineering Development Trust.

Future U creates opportunities for young people in Lancashire in order to increase rates of progression onto higher education in areas where participation is lower than expected. The £2.2 million initiative is led by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and involves institutions and organisations across the county including Lancaster University, Edge Hill University, the University of Cumbria, Blackburn College, Myerscough College and West Lancashire College.

Shabir Nazir, project lead at Future U, said: “Fast Trackers has provided young people with a unique insight into the wide range of opportunities available through engineering higher education, invaluable industry experiences which have shaped the futures of many students.

“It’s fantastic to have been shortlisted for an Educate North Award, which demonstrates the impact the project has had on the participants, and we are looking forward to launching Fast Trackers with a new group of students this year.”

James Richards, engineering capability manager at Network Rail, said: “Fast Trackers gave us a unique opportunity to work more closely with the students than usual, providing them with the opportunity to learn more about engineering careers and the educational pathways that underpin the variety of roles, while experiencing the types of work that engineers routinely undertake.

“This collaborative approach allowed us to set new standards in educational outreach and we are excited to be growing the Fast Trackers programme for 2019 and plan to reach over 500 learners nationally.”

NCOP is a national network of local partnerships which provides higher education outreach to young people from years nine to 13 in areas across England where higher education participation is lower than expected.

Lancashire’s Future U works with a network of 53 schools, in addition to colleges, higher education providers and local agencies to create activities tailored to the needs of their own.

Now in its fifth year, the Educate North Awards celebrate excellence and best practice in the education sector in the North.

A judging panel of industry experts and professionals will determine the winners of the awards, which will be announced at a ceremony on April 25 at the Hilton Deansgate in Manchester.

Events & Activities

At Future U, we to offer a variety of outreach events and activities which are delivered by our central team and by our partners.


Please select Activities to view the range of talks and workshops that are available to book ad-hoc. Many activities can be delivered in school or virtually, are free of charge and are aligned to the Gatsby Benchmarks for Good Career Guidance.


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