Hear from the Apprentices
Adrian - Track Apprentice
I applied for the Network Rail scheme because it's a great opportunity to gain valuable qualifications and train at the same time, knowing that I will be moving towards a great, prosperous career. I was always interested in engineering and wanted to continue to gain more qualifications but didn't want to go to university. I wanted to learn and get paid at the same time and an apprenticeship offered just this. Network Rail was my chance to get involved and move forward in my career. I was attracted by the opportunities and challenges that Network Rail offers, which range from BTEC units to a chartered engineering degree, which is my personal goal. And the company benefits are unquestionably worthwhile too.
Currently based at a depot, I have been involved in ballast regulating, sleeper changing, rail replacement, lifting and packing and also rail adjustment. All these tasks are covered by the permanent way (track) department. Carrying out such tasks gives me great work experience, whilst developing the skills required to become an engineer. Here at the depot, I'm enjoying being part of Network Rail more than ever. I've learnt so much in the short period of time that I've been with the company, from theoretical (NVQ and BTEC) and practical knowledge to learning how to develop teams.
Chris - Overhead Line Apprentice
I'm a second year apprentice at Westbourne Park in London - and part of the first group to be dedicated to Overhead Line Engineering. My usual working day involves walking trackside, inspecting the overhead equipment from the ground. These patrols often cover quite a few miles, so it helps keep me in shape. But to be honest, you can't really do much more than patrol during the day, so the time we get most work done is at night. That's when we can isolate the supply earth and get up amongst all the equipment to see if anything needs attention. It's great in the summer, not so great in the winter. But we just get on with it in most weathers, because it's a job that has to be done.
The apprenticeship is exactly what I expected it to be - hard work, challenging and lots of fun. When I eventually pass the apprenticeship scheme I'll be a fully qualified Overhead Linesman, which I'm really looking forward to.
Paul - Signals and Telecoms Maintenance Engineer
Completed Signals and Telecoms Apprenticeship
Since completing my apprenticeship in 2009, I made the decision to follow a technical signalling route within the company. I have been given various opportunities within signal engineering and have eventually ended up where I want to be, as a Signals and Telecoms Maintenance Engineer.
The Signals and Telecoms Maintenance Engineer role means I manage the signalling department for the Bedford delivery unit. To enable me to do my job correctly I have a team of 58 who work in the department, ranging from operatives to signal section managers and principal technical engineers and we have a budget of roughly £4 million. It is my job to ensure that all of the team are working safely and providing the safest possible signalling system. At the same time as ensuring a safety culture exists I have to make sure we are working compliantly to the correct standards and that the quality of our work is to the highest level.
If our compliance is managed correctly then we can leave work knowing our signalling system is safe. Along with this is the efficiency of the department; like managing the amount of failures we have and why, it is also about managing financial efficiency to ensure we are using our budget wisely. My job ranges from incredibly technical situations where I am tested, to meetings with train operating companies and directors; it's a role I'm incredibly grateful to have.
The apprenticeship is ultimately the reason I decided to take this route. I joined with some reservations about what job I would finish with but throughout my time on the course I gained a clear understanding of what my final goal was. There were also some concerns about moving away but this proved to be a great decision and was a lot less daunting than I imagined. The time spent on the apprenticeship taught me a lot of new engineering techniques and also helped me revive other academic skills from school that are now very useful for what I do. Joining the scheme was one of the biggest decisions I've had to make although now I look back it should have been one of the easiest.
Natalie - Telecoms Apprentice
I was working as a lifeguard and needed a fresh challenge. Little did I realise just what this meant when I was accepted onto the Network Rail Advanced Apprenticeship Scheme. I am halfway through my third and final year, and I can't believe how fast the time's gone. On a personal note I have made friendships that will last forever and I've been given opportunities I could never have dreamed of, from running a marathon to scuba diving in Malta. Living away from home for the first year was hard at times but well worth it.
I am more independent and it has provided me with the challenge I needed. More importantly I am at the beginning of a fantastic new career.
Telecommunications was my chosen career path and I am very happy with my choice. Telecoms is at the forefront of future technology and Network Rail is currently changing over from analogue to a complete digital communications system. It is a really important area of work – for example, we provide the communications systems for the railway which enable communication between signal boxes and also with the phones at level crossings which are vital in an emergency. I work with a great team who have helped and supported me throughout and being the only female at my depot has never been an issue.
I am so glad I saw the advert for the scheme and just went for it!
Laura - Completed Electrification and Plant Apprenticeship
I have recently this year completed my apprenticeship; where I was studying Electrification and Plant. During the first year we stayed full time in Gosport, which I enjoyed and where I felt I gained much experience and learnt many life skills. (Although at times it was difficult living away from home). I have made many lifelong friends; also it was an experience meeting people from all walks of life. Living on a naval base created a disciplined lifestyle, which I believe is a great trait to have. In te first year I gained a distinction overall in BTEC National Diploma, and NVQ level 2; and also gained ILM level 2. Also during the first year I got the opportunity to meet the Princess Royal at HMS Sultan.
For the second, and the third year I was full time at my depot and I shared my time between overhead line, and plant. Working on shift with the team was the best experience, being hands on as opposed to when we were doing a lot of theory work in the first year. I found a lot of the electrical work we carried out in the first year very useful at the depot, as it gave me a basic understanding of how the overheads operate. I also had to write out 25 Work Based Learning Objectives; which were detailed assignments on different subjects within the different fields, ranging from overhead line, to plant, to track etc. Finally in the third year I was given nine NVQ assignments to include detailed accounts and evidence of the practical work I had been carrying out, ending in a practical exam on track with the NVQ assessor.
Overall I think the apprenticeship is a great opportunity especially in the current climate; a great amount is invested in you and you gain so many qualifications and life skills. I would strongly recommend the Network Rail Apprenticeship to anyone; of any age and would encourage them to apply as soon as possible. Anyone currently part of the scheme I would recommend them to get all of the work out of the way as soon as possible, as it will make life a lot easier!