Apprentices are important for the future of the railway and will stem skills shortage, say Network Rail employees
Aspiring engineers and those with a burgeoning talent for technology were today urged to sign up to one of the UK’s most highly-rated apprenticeships, as Network Rail celebrates 10 years of its Advanced Apprenticeship Scheme.
Some 2,000 young people have joined the scheme since it launched in 2005. On 12th March, 10 apprentices representing each of the 10 years will come together for an event at King’s Cross Station, London, to share their experiences and talk about some of the exciting projects they’ve been a part of.
Over the last 10 years, apprentices, and those graduating from the scheme have been integral to the successful day to day running and operation of the railway. Many have become leaders themselves and work in exciting, vital roles in delivering new modern track design, flying with the engineering air operations team and on European signalling systems.
Network Rail's' significant £38bn railway upgrade plan also provides massive opportunities to be a part of transformational projects, heralding the biggest improvement work since the Victorian age. These improvements will deliver opportunities, connections, economic growth and jobs. For example, the Thameslink programme which will transform north-south travel through London, electrification of the Great Western Main Line which is one of Britain’s oldest and busiest railways, and the Northern Hub project which will stimulate economies in the North of England and see 700 more trains running each day, providing space for 44 million more passengers a year.
To mark the Advanced Apprenticeship Scheme 10 year anniversary, Network Rail commissioned an employee survey to capture their views on the value that apprentices bring to the organisation and the difference they make to them in their working lives.
One Network Rail employee said that: “As an ex apprentice (of many years ago!), it is great to see the Scheme bringing in more new young enthusiastic people into the industry.”
Another added: ““The quality of staff we get out of the Network Rail apprenticeship scheme is generally excellent - I've employed two of them in my team, and I can see them moving higher up the ranks in the company. Their attitude is superb.”
The research indicated significant support with:
• 94% believing apprentices are important for the future of the railway network
• 92% saying they would recommend hiring apprentices to other organisations
• 82% said that apprentices help to future proof the industry by avoiding a skills shortage.
And the vast majority of employees also feel that apprentices are enthusiastic about the industry and their job (88%), are quick to learn (91%) and bring a fresh approach (75%).
Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail said: “"Since 2005 we have seen over 2,000 talented apprentices develop and grow within our organisation. Every day they help our railway to carry more passenger trains and deliver more freight safely and on time, than when they started. They all tell us they are excited by the breadth of opportunities they’ve been offered, and the fact that they’ve been a part of some truly transformational work is something to be celebrated.
“It’s an extremely exciting time for apprentices to join us. We’re embarking on the biggest investment since the Victorian era, which means opportunities for everyone to develop a rewarding career, and play a vital part in shaping the bright future of Britain’s railway.”
Those that progress through Network Rail’s Advanced Apprenticeship Scheme can go on to develop a range of specialisms, from aerial surveyors to track designers and fault finders. They also achieve an NVQ Level 3 qualification at the end of the three- year course, and many choose to further their learning by completing qualifications such as a Higher National Certificate, Foundation Degree and more.
The scheme has an established record of delivering skilled labour for Britain’s railways, with 95% of apprentices going on to work for Network Rail as full-time employees, compared to the industry standard apprenticeship retention rate of 74%. The majority also progress their career with Network Rail, with 85% of those who started on the 2005 Apprenticeship Scheme still working for the organisation.
Thomas Harrison, European train control system (ETCS) engineer, was one of the 157 people who joined Network Rail’s first Advanced Apprenticeship Scheme in 2005. “Over the 10 years I’ve been working at Network Rail, I’ve progressed through six different roles. There is so much scope to shape your career path the way you want to, and the support Network Rail offers to do this is brilliant.”
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