Making the first step onto the career ladder can seem a daunting task if you are a jobseeker.
The endless job applications, the need for experience without an opportunity to impress and the intimidating prospect of an interview can be difficult to get past.
Bridging the gap, The Prince’s Trust has set up an initiative to remove these barriers and support disadvantaged youngsters to become the rail industry’s next generation. Since 2013, more than 200 unemployed jobseekers aged 16 to 25 have joined the rail industry through The Prince’s Trust ‘Get into Customer Service’ programme.
The scheme teaches jobseekers the skills to succeed in the field and provides them with a platform to practise by manning ticket barriers, providing assistance to customers on platforms and supporting staff on board train services.
By collaborating with Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and FirstGroup, the youth charity is helping unemployed youngsters get on track with a career in the rail industry.
From the most recent GTR programme, 16 out of 18 on work experience were offered jobs, including Daniel Ratchford, from Stevenage, who worked for the TOC’s Great Northern franchise at the Finsbury Park and King’s Cross stations.
‘I’m so pleased to have the chance to wear this uniform again to make a good life for me and my son,’ he says. ‘I’ve been a single dad for the last three years and I wanted a chance to challenge myself.
‘I was really grateful to be accepted by the station team I worked with.’
Across four weeks, youngsters are taught first aid and customer service skills, working in the classroom and in stations to develop a skillset that will help them find employment in customer service, but with a particular focus on the railway.
In return, the TOCs fulfil a social responsibility requirement that is needed to bid for publicly funded contracts such as HS2 or for retendered franchises, according to The Prince’s Trust.
Joining Daniel, six graduates from the Get into Customer Service programme have since found employment with Southern, five with Thameslink and another four with Great Northern as part of the TOC’s two-year partnership with The Prince’s Trust.
During the scheme, candidates’ employability is further enhanced with tips on CV writing and interview techniques to help them in their job hunt.
‘Youth unemployment is a worrying issue so it’s important to provide as much support as possible for young people finding work,’ says Peter Yarwood, programme manager at The Prince’s Trust. ‘This group of young people are an inspiring example of just how much can be achieved.
‘With the right guidance, positive and long-term steps to success can be made.’
PRACTICAL AND VOCATIONAL SKILLS
Through the one-year partnership with FirstGroup, The Prince’s Trust has worked with Great Western and Transpennine Express (TPE). A group of 10 from the latter has recently graduated.
Sue Whaley, TPE HR director, said, ‘It has been an absolute pleasure welcoming our new colleagues to TPE over the last four weeks.
‘Not only have they taken huge steps to progress their practical and vocational skills in customer service, they have also been a real asset to TPE, truly becoming part of the team.
‘It is obvious to everyone that has worked with the group that they have both the ability and work ethic to succeed, and I wish them the best of luck in the future.’
But The Prince’s Trust isn’t the only charitable organisation creating a new pathway into the railway industry. The Construction Youth Trust runs a similar programme but with an emphasis on practical skills. The ‘Budding Builders’ programme supports young people across London to achieve their Level 1 Award in Health and Safety in a Construction Environment as well as their CSCS card, which tells employers that the holder knows about safe working practices in the industry, as well as basic construction skills.
Held across three weeks with three sessions each week, students are given a foothold onto the employment ladder.
All 25 of the recent cohort graduated from the scheme, three of which have been made promising offers, and if those figures are anything to go by work experience programmes like The Prince’s Trust and the Construction Youth Trust can only serve to strengthen the industry’s work force and give dozens more jobseekers an opportunity to establish a career for themselves.