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Soldiers tackle railway skills gap

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The rail industry makes a good successor career for military personnel looking for further challenge and adventure: That’s the message from rail chiefs and rail staff helping heroes onto the metals.

Ten former military personnel graduated late last year from Wiltshire College, following six weeks of intensive training as part of Siemens Rail Automation’s new ‘Military2Rail’ initiative.

Now at work on the railway, the group had successfully completed a mixture of work-based and college training, delivered and funded by a partnership between Siemens and Wiltshire College.

Proven leadership skills

Speaking at the graduation ceremony, David Attmere, himself a former Warrant Officer with the Royal Engineers and now a project director with Siemens, said, ‘There is a real skills shortage in the rail industry, which cannot be remedied by recruiting apprentices, graduates and trainees alone.

‘We have developed this initiative specifically for former Armed Forces personnel; ready-trained and highly-skilled individuals who I am confident will become first class rail engineers. But not only will they bring much-needed technical skills to our industry, they are also highly motivated and loyal. Above all, they have proven leadership and team- working skills which will be invaluable.’IMG-20151211-WA0001

Siemens built the programme with the Careers Transition Partnership and Help for Heroes. The 10 trainees can look forward to rewarding jobs at Siemens as design engineers, testers and installation team leaders. An eleventh individual who applied for the course already had the required industry skills and was offered immediate employment.

What next?

Help for Heroes offers career recovery support to those who have become wounded, injured or sick during their time in service.

Says Susan Turnbull, head of career recovery at Help for Heroes, ‘When an injury occurs, it can change your life instantly and, before you know it, what you thought would be a career for life has gone. Suddenly you are left with the feeling of ‘what next?’

‘Through our Career Recovery programmes, we help injured servicemen and women identify a new, fulfilling future. We believe the skills of servicemen and women, such as communication, problem solving, leadership and teamwork, make them highly employable and valuable to the civilian workplace. We are extremely grateful to Siemens for offering three of our wounded heroes a new and purposeful career outside the Armed Forces.’

It’s a pleasure to work with military candidates says Rob Hand, deputy director at the Wiltshire College’s Chippenham campus.

‘The Military2Rail programme has been a fantastic opportunity to introduce service people into a much needed area where there is a skills shortage,’ says Rob. ‘It has enabled the candidates to transfer their skills from the services to a national company and it has been an absolute pleasure to work with them and Siemens.’

A new career

The new railwaymen are delighted, too. On completing the course, Paul Wilson, who served for 10 years with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, said, ‘Since leaving the Army in 2012, I have received fantastic support from Help for Heroes who are helping me deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and prepare for a new career.

‘I have been searching for a meaningful job where I can fully utilise the skills that I gained in the Army and was absolutely delighted to be chosen for the first Military2Rail training programme.

‘I am now really looking forward to working with a new team of people in Siemens’ Chippenham office, where I will be taking on the role of trainee signal design engineer.’

Siemens Rail Automation is heavily involved in the expansion of Britain’s rail network installing and commissioning track-side and in-train signalling and train control systems as well as track vacancy detection, level-crossing protection and rail communications.

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