OPPORTUNITIES for regional firms to capitalise on the growth of the rail sector are to be outlined at this year’s Durham Oktoberfest.

Since the arrival of Hitachi to Newton Aycliffe, the sector has undergone major growth with many companies from the rail industry’s supply chain winning business as a result.

Now, following on from the success of an event held last year, which was all about encouraging regional firms to pursue opportunities within the sector, rail is to be a key theme of Durham Oktoberfest 2017, which takes place this week.

County Durham Engineering and Manufacturing Network (CDEMN), which organises the annual networking expo, has teamed up with the Rail Alliance and Business Durham to stage a workshop which will look at how businesses can capitalise on opportunities within the rail sector and what support is available to them to ensure they benefit from the growth of the sector.

Ben Gilhespy, Operations Director at CDEMN, said: “The rail sector has undergone massive growth in the few years since Hitachi moved into Newton Aycliffe.

“There are so many opportunities for businesses across the North East to win work from companies within the sector and we really want this workshop to give them a better idea of how they do that.

“I think many of them genuinely think that because of the Hitachi effect, these opportunities are only available for the bigger firms but that isn’t the case. Businesses of all sizes could be pitching for work, they just need to know where to start.”

The Rail Alliance is the rail sector’s largest dedicated B2B networking organisation, which brings together customers and suppliers and promotes supply chain opportunities within the growing sector. It works collaboratively with stakeholders and influencers to encourage diversification and enable the application of cutting edge technology and practices within the rail sector.

Lucy Prior, membership development and international trade director, said: “The Rail Alliance is delighted to be working with the County Durham Engineering and Manufacturing Network and Business Durham at this year’s Oktoberfest. There are many reasons why we’re involved in this event, not least because the rail sector is in a very buoyant position, but we recognise, as does the industry at large, that in terms of regional and sectoral capabilities the North East has so more much to offer.

“Our aims at Oktoberfest are varied. We hope to promote rail-sector opportunities to a new audience, whether that be industry or education; advise on the most relevant routes in to the sector for newcomers; and assist those already in rail progress further.

“Opportunities represented by Hitachi and the IEP project, Nexus, the Great North Rail Project, Transport for the North and many more are huge and very exciting, but also complex and challenging. Ultimately our hopes for Oktoberfest is to help companies network, collaborate, innovate and thrive.”

Sarah Slaven, Interim Managing Director at Business Durham added: “There are a myriad of opportunities in the rail sector for companies in the North East so it’s been of huge value to them to hear what hiring businesses are looking for and from those which are part of the ever increasing supply chain.”

The Rail Alliance workshop is one of many themed sessions held during this year’s Durham Oktoberfest, which is being held at the Xcel Centre in Newton Aycliffe this coming Thursday, October 19.

The event will also feature the University of Sunderland’s AMAP North East Maintenance Forum, an Education Zone for budding engineers to showcase their work and meet employers, while in the main exhibition hall there will be an Incubator Zone, delivered in partnership with the Durham Business Opportunities Programme (DBOP) with ERDF support, for micro firms with links to the engineering and manufacturing sectors.

This year’s event is again being supported by Business Durham and Stadler Rail as gold sponsors, while Nigel Wright Recruitment has also come on board as an associate partner.

To find out more visit the website, durhamoktoberfest.org.uk.