Apprenticeships are for everyone – not just applicants straight out of school or college.
In fact, Adelaja Aladejobi already had a master's degree when he started a whole new career as an apprentice at Network Rail. We find out what gives him the passion to go to work every day and why he's spreading the message about diversity in engineering for young people.
“The track is an amazing place to work.”
“I have passion in trying to solve things.”
What’s your job?
We are the maintenance department – the [permanent-way] … we renew the track, fix the track and make the track safe for passengers and freight trains.
I am an apprentice working in a team of 15 people on the apprenticeship scheme that is open to everyone. When I applied for it, I am a graduate, I have a master’s degree. They question me, ‘why the apprenticeship?’ But I see what it has for me for the future, not for the short term. That’s why I joined the scheme and I’m happy I made that decision when I did.
Why do you love your job?
I have passion in trying to solve things … I believe working within this scheme has given me that opportunity. I wake up in the morning and I have the passion to go to work.
What do you hope to do after your apprenticeship?
After my apprenticeship … I would like to apply for railway engineering in Sheffield University but before that, I would like to look for a permanent job so I can be working while I do distance learning.
What was your first week as an apprentice like?
A bit challenging. I was away from my family, from my kids … But with time I met up with people, doing lectures … that brings my focus back to normal and from there on, have been trying to make sure I keep my focus on the prize ahead of me.
Did you settle in well?
I settled in easily because, you know, I’ve been away 7,000 miles from my country to come down here, I’ve been here for about 10 years. So coming away for a few months is not really a hard thing for me.
What’s Westwood – our training centre for apprentices – like?
It’s a very lovely environment, the lecturers … the staff are friendly, lovely. My colleagues as well. I’m in a glass of 16. We still get in touch … as we go in different departments, people in Wales, people in Scotland, people in the Highlands … so we have some friendly, lovely people.
Does it excite you to be embarking on a new career?
It’s amazing, this career path because I have been wanting to influence young adults … I go to schools to encourage young people about engineering courses … the opportunity that lies ahead of them in an engineering course.
Adelaja at work on track
When I go to schools, talking to people, I let them know about the challenges and opportunity. The challenge is you have to be focused, you have to give your best, you have to be positive in everything you are doing.
But it comes with great advantages, which is exciting. If you’re part of the engineering world – mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, railway engineer – there are things there that you can make a difference.
I love Network Rail. I live our values every day. When you’re going out there, keep yourself safe, care for others, be empowered … As a father of four myself, I have young kids. Talking to them is shaping their whole life, getting them to know exactly what path they can take to be successful in an engineering career.
Do you make things with your kids?
We do some creative things together because they said, “Daddy, you work on the railway? Do you fix the rail or do you fix the train? Do you drive the train?”
I come to tell them, “No, I only fix the track and this is exactly what I do”. So if you come to my house, you see Thomas the Tank Engine – most of the books my kids read. You know, just to encourage them in what daddy does.
What’s the first thing you ever made?
Paper aeroplane. That was the first thing … You get a sheet of paper, you put it together, and you want yours to be the fastest so you do the different, you know, different techniques that make it to go further. I can remember vividly.
Engineering apprentices spend their first six months at Westwood – our dedicated training centre
Is improving diversity on the railway important to you?
Network Rail are doing great when it comes to diversity and inclusion in Network Rail. This is quite new to me because of my background – Black community from Nigeria.
But I believe if they can take it to the grass roots, talking to the young people that a job opportunity is not just for these people, it’s for everyone – white, black, any background can apply for the job. And that’s why it encourages me to join STEM as an ambassador just to make sure I portray that image to the young people. Network Rail are doing great but if you can do more, it will be better as well.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I am always optimistic, you know, to see what lies ahead of me and I’m eager to learn. I’m still learning and will continue to learn.
I want to be a project engineer so in 10 years’ time, I will be willingly to be part of the project team, delivering multi-billion pound projects for Network Rail in the future.