Rail Industry unites to launch 18 month work placement scheme

One in four (26%) people who graduated from university in the last two years have turned down a job offer because they felt they were overqualified or the role wasn’t appropriate for them. This startling figure is revealed as more than 25 companies across the rail sector have joined together for the first time to help up to 100 graduates get their careers on track by launching a new cross-industry, paid internship scheme.

The scheme - Track and Train – will provide an all-round industry experience over 18 months, where graduates will enjoy three, six-month placements: one at Network Rail and two at either a passenger or freight operator or another company within the rail sector.

The scheme, funded by Network Rail, involves 27 partner companies based across Britain providing local employment opportunities – i.e. those living in Glasgow, York or Manchester, for example, will be placed at companies in those areas. It will target young people who have graduated in the last two years but owing to the tough economic times have found themselves either unemployed or more likely under-employed in a non-graduate level role.

Patrick Butcher, Network Rail’s group finance director, responsible for the scheme, said: “We know that there are many smart, talented individuals out there that haven’t had their break yet and as a growing industry we can work together to provide challenging, valuable and paid work experience to kick start their careers.

“What sets this scheme apart is those involved will work across the rail industry and by linking it all together, develop a fantastic knowledge and understanding of the challenges we all face and the opportunities for the future.”

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Transport Secretary Justine Greening said: “Transport is a key driver of growth, so this is a great practical scheme which will help the rail sector support growth and jobs. We want to encourage talented young people from all backgrounds to work in an exciting and vibrant sector.”

As thousands of young people start 2012 looking for meaningful work, Network Rail surveyed those who have graduated in the last two years and found:

  Four in ten people (41%) are unsure if they made the right degree choice and a further 14% believe they made the wrong choice.
  Graduates have applied on average for nine jobs since leaving university.
  8% have been offered no job interviews
  65% have been offered between one and three interviews and a quarter (24%) have had more than five interviews.
  43% have found it extremely hard or hard to narrow down the type of job they are looking for with a further 34% finding it sometimes hard.

  One in five (19%) are not interested in doing voluntary work with a third (33%) only wanting paid work. 19% have already done voluntary work.

  When asked what they think employers value most:
  - 40% said “work experience relevant to the job”
  - 28% “skills relevant to the job”
  - 14% believe that top qualifications are most valued
  - 10% said “where someone went to university” is what employers are most interested in
  - 29% believe that a lack of experience most puts of potential employers in an application or interview; 24% say poor spelling and grammar, 16% say lack of research
  More than one in four (27%) rated their university careers service as “not very good” or “poor” with a further 34% saying it was “only partly helpful”.

Karl Grewar is a graduate working at Network Rail and on secondment to London Travelwatch. He said “Being at university is very different to the workplace so it is vital graduates know how to behave in a business environment. Learn to plan, to multi-task and to prioritise your workload. Any work experience you can get under your belt and refer to in interviews is well worth it. Get used to the sound of your voice and to speaking in front of people as you’ll be talking to people at all levels. I have been surprised at how many graduates’ communication skills aren’t up to scratch leaving university.

“I feel privileged that Network Rail offered me the chance to get exposure to the wider transport industry with a secondment. At London Travelwatch I get to see the passengers’ perspective first hand and my knowledge of transport in London has rocketed as has how it all links together. Future generations of managers across the rail industry can only benefit from this cross-working; it’s certainly helped me get a real taste of the challenges the industry faces.”