HomePeopleRail Week: Bridging the rail skills gap

Rail Week: Bridging the rail skills gap

Listen to this article

Following the rousing success that was the 2016 Young Rail Professionals’ Annual Dinner, all focus is now on the organisation and delivery of the first ever Rail Week.

From Monday 27 June to Sunday 3 July, a pioneering pan-industry initiative intends to bring the rail industry, in all its guises, closer to schools, teachers, career advisors and students, celebrating the diverse and rewarding opportunities available across the sector during the inaugural Rail Week.

The dedicated week of activity aims to address the skills shortage in rail-related roles and inspire a generation of young people through a series of events, visits and talks. The events for people at schools, colleges and universities aim to encourage them to consider careers in our great industry. Rail Week will also include a widespread schools outreach programme, facilitating ambassadors to get into the classroom and deliver inspirational activities designed for Rail Week.

The Rail Week initiative is the brainchild of the Young Rail Professionals, and we are now urging organisations across the rail industry to get involved by pledging to host events and reach out to schools, colleges and parents in their area.


YRP and our members know firsthand that the rail sector is a great place to work, with exciting projects to get involved in, good career prospects and a wide range of different roles to undertake’, explains YRP chair Sabrina Ihaddaden. ‘Unfortunately, many children, parents and teachers don’t realise the variety of jobs and opportunities available. We hope to change this with Rail Week.

‘By getting the whole sector involved in Rail Week, we can collectively bridge the skills gap and celebrate the great careers in rail. It is important that companies across the sector and country get involved so we can truly represent the industry.’

The idea is already gaining momentum across the sector, with a number of industry leaders having already agreed to back Rail Week. These include the support of the Rail Delivery Group, the National Skills Academy for Rail (NSAR), Rail Media, Rail Alliance, High Speed Rail Industry Leaders, the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and the Railway Engineers Forum (REF).

Sabrina adds, ‘We aim to give young people, parents, teachers and careers advisors firsthand experience of the projects, ideas and technology leading the sector today. We want to let them see behind the doors of some of the biggest and most innovative projects to show them how much of an exciting and varied industry rail is.’


Rail Week aims to show the huge breadth of roles in the industry from the technical and creative to strategic and political. Rail Week aims to achieve this through special events, talks and visits.

As part of Rail Week, companies are being asked to host tours of depots, labs, stations, project sites, or organise conferences, evening lectures, visits to schools, colleges and universities. Once you’ve had an idea, get in touch with the Rail Week team to get the event added to the website.

Many companies already have outreach engagement with schools. Rail Week is a great opportunity to get these volunteers into school and promote rail further.

In addition, YRP, STEMNET and the wider industry are co-ordinating the Rail Week STEM Ambassadors programme to promote rail careers in schools and colleges directly. During Rail Week, teachers will request for ambassadors to go into schools and visit their class. Ambassadors can deliver a rail activity or give a presentation about their career and job.

A stellar example of how to get involved is a recent initiative led by our YRP Annual Dinner headline sponsor, CPC Project Services LLP. For the last nine months, its CPC Systems division has collaborated with Brighton University’s Engineering Department to set a group of five engineering students a final year project as part of their Master’s degree.

The team – comprising one electrical and four mechanical engineers – presented the results of their project to George Clark, engineering director, Capital Programmes – London Underground, and the CPC Systems team.

The challenge CPC Systems set was to investigate a method of detecting and recording the stopping position of the trains at Jubilee line stations with Platform Edge Doors (PEDs). The project stipulated that the detection had to be independent to the existing Transmission-Based Train Control (TBTC) SelTrac system but have the potential to interface with the trains’ Vehicles on-board Computer (VOBC).

The team explored several options, analysing pros and cons for each such as cost, complexity, effectiveness and durability. The YRP, CPC Systems team and George Clark are all impressed with the engineering solution that the team came up with and the enthusiasm and professionalism they have shown throughout the project. The team submitted their project on the 19 May and here at YRP, we wish them the best of luck!

‘It was great to see future engineers taking on a real challenge that railways can face and progress innovative solutions in a systematic way. Their research and presentation was both professional and thought provoking and is certainly something we should progress further,’ says George Clark, engineering director, Capital Programmes Directorate, London Underground.

‘It is a breath of fresh air to see what a group of young, enthusiastic engineers can come up with when set with a complex task. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the team and hope that this project has shown them there is room for innovation within rail and inspired them to pursue careers in the industry,’ said Charlotte Hughes, project manager, CPC Systems.

For more information on Rail Week, hosting an event or supporting the Ambassador programme, visit our interim website at www.railweek.com or email [email protected]. Don’t forget to follow Rail Week on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and show your support for the campaign using the hashtag #railweek

Photo: shutterstock.com