A team of young apprentices began work on the £6.5billion Thameslink project this week as part of the programme’s aim to develop the UK’s next generation of engineers.
The Thameslink-HMS Sultan Apprenticeship scheme sees apprentices spending a year at the joint Network Rail / Royal Navy training facility at HMS Sultan in Gosport. They then spend the remaining two years of their training working alongside Network Rail and its partners on the Thameslink Programme, which aims to transform north-south travel through London.
The first 12 recruits from across the UK finished their stint at Gosport this month and have begun working across a range of disciplines ranging from track, electrical engineering and telecoms and signalling. Recruitment for a further 12 apprentices is underway and another 12 will be recruited in 2015.
Thameslink Programme head of engineering Chris Binns said: “Rail investment is at record levels but we cannot keep improving the network without also investing in people. The Thameslink Programme is designed to transform rail travel through London and we need a diverse and skilled workforce to deliver that”.
The youngest apprentice on the Programme Erin Henderson, from Uxbridge, said: “When I was in the sixth form there was a bit of prejudice around the idea of apprenticeships. But I’ve been able to move out like my friends that have gone to uni, but I’m getting paid! They’re all a bit jealous now.
“Doing this apprenticeship has given me the time, space and the right amount of pushing to figure out what I want to be and what I want to do.”
Network Rail was also proud to support the first National Women in Engineering Day. Only nine per cent of UK engineering professionals are women but on the Thameslink Programme that figure is around 15 per cent, with 13 of the project’s 87 engineers being women.
Speaking about Women in Engineering, Erin said: “To any woman considering taking up engineering I would say ‘go for it!’. I think some women are put off taking engineering as a career as they think they will be discriminated against and that they will struggle in a largely male dominated workplace. I have had no problems with discrimination.”
The Thameslink-HMS Sultan scheme complements the existing Network Rail Advanced Apprenticeship programme and the Skills Academy, which is based with the project to rebuild London Bridge. There are also a series of work placements planned for the remaining four-year life of the project.