There are around 240 places available on the 2013 Network Rail advanced apprenticeship scheme, and chief executive David Higgins wants parents, educators and young people alike to realise the future career opportunities that an apprenticeship can bring, including a university education at work.
“There are many paths to achieve a successful career” says Higgins. Whether you join straight from school or after college or work, the apprenticeship programme can be the first step to a challenging career.
An apprenticeship can also open doors to a university education. Whilst many apprentices go on to be team leaders and rise through the ranks, Network Rail also helps those who want to achieve further qualifications the chance to study part-time for a Higher National Certificate in engineering and then onto a foundation degree and a bachelors at Sheffield Hallam University.
Former apprentice now maintenance team leader, Camilla Banner, 24, said: “I am thrilled to have completed my HNC and although it was difficult it has really helped to get me ready for the rest of my degree. By the end of next summer I hope to have completed my foundation degree in engineering and then onto the bachelors. My depot and Network Rail as a whole have been really great with supporting me during my studies and I look forward the successfully completing in 2015.”
Network Rail apprentices spend a year training alongside the Royal Navy at Europe’s largest engineering training facility at HMS Sultan in Hampshire. There they learn both the technical skills required to work on the railway and develop leadership and teamwork behaviours to make them more effective in their roles. For the next two years they learn their trade, working within an experienced team, continuing to return to HMS Sultan regularly for additional courses and training.
Mr Higgins added: “Network Rail’s success is defined by our people. We need a highly skilled workforce to meet the challenges of a busier network and focus on improving performance and increasing capacity. It makes absolute sense for us to develop the talent we have coming through our apprenticeship scheme to complement our experienced engineers. This pipeline of talent development will help us retain and attract more quality people, which will help us meet the tough challenges ahead to deliver a better value railway for Britain.”
By far the largest number of recruits (50) Network Rail is seeking, is along the Great Western route where billions of pounds is being invested in electrifying the railway over the next few years. With this and further investment across Britain, today’s apprentice could tomorrow, be part of one of the biggest infrastructure projects in the country.