Keeping training on track

Kirstie Jones, Head of HR
03 July 2017
close up image of rail tracks
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As the population grows, so does the demand for a more efficient and reliable rail network, and this needs to go hand in hand with investment in the people that keep the railway running.

According to the National Skills Academy for Rail less than one firth of the workforce are under the age of 30 and nearly half over the age of 45. With an ageing workforce we must address the growing skills gap and skills shortage across the sector.

But why are we facing a skills shortage?

Firstly skills are no longer passed down through generations, leading to skills dying out which were so crucial in the development of the UK rail network as we know it today. Secondly, with the introduction of digital railway and emerging technologies we need to be retraining the existing workforce as well as looking to attract young talent into the industry.

What can we do?

Businesses, the Government, and academic institutions all have a responsibility to inspire young people to consider a career in the rail industry. We need to continue investing in people, developing new apprenticeships and support innovation so that we can build a better rail network for generations to come.

That’s exactly what our High Output Plant System (HOPS) maintenance team did on the Great Western Electrification Project (GWEP).

Developing  tailored training courses

Three years ago, the team needed young talent to help deliver the project. There were no OTM (On Track Machines) apprentice training courses available at the time so together with The City of Bristol Advanced Engineering Centre we developed a tailored training course. The training combines academic study with hands on experience to arm each apprentice with the skills the industry so desperately needs. A couple of weeks ago, our first team of apprentices completed their training and are now working full time on the GWEP project as skilled technicians.

It’s all about the partnerships

We have a number of initiatives and partnerships that not only aim at attracting young talent into the industry but are focused on developing and engaging our current workforce. From partnerships with STEM NET and Tomorrow’s Engineers to our 100 strong STEM ambassador network we’re helping to demonstrate and educate school pupils where a STEM career can take them.  

Putting employers in the driving seat

The Government is also doing its bit by committing to creating 30,000 new rail and road apprentices by 2020. And in 2017 we saw the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy to increase the quantity and quality of apprenticeships across England. The levy puts employers like us in the driving seat; from designing apprenticeships to choosing training we are responsible for managing the quality of apprentices. That’s why we’ve signed an innovative agreement with The Collab Group to deliver our apprenticeship training across the UK.

We’ll ensure all of our apprentices have access to the high quality training that will allow them to keep the rail network running today and into the future. We also offer our apprentices the opportunity to complete their Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Business Award, giving young people the chance to develop life skills like problem solving and team working which are vital in the industry.


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