Signalling and telecommunications will be profoundly affected by the current digital railway agenda. New equipment presents new technical challenges and it requires those trained in traditional skills to adapt to new ways of working.
Earlier this year, Westermo, which will once again be sponsoring the Signalling and Telecommunications Person or Team of the Year category at the RailStaff Awards, announced it was supporting Southampton Solent University by providing the university’s computer networking department with specialist communications equipment. The partnership was a natural choice – the university is just a 20-minute drive away from Westermo’s UK headquarters – but the company is looking at fostering similar collaborations with other UK universities.
Although Westermo’s roots are in Sweden, it has become a key supplier to the UK industry. Its core business has been the supply of lineside communications infrastructure, but in recent years it has developed its offering of On Train networks. The company is a global provider of railway communications networks. It currently employs more than 200 people around the world – a quarter of which work in rail.
Westermo says it hopes by introducing students to the kind of technology that underpins the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) it will be able to make a positive contribution to bridging the widening digital skills gap – a problem which isn’t isolated to rail.
Global communications provider
The winner of the category last year was Alstom’s Jai Smart. He too spoke about a determination to encourage future generations of engineers. He spoke about wanting to bring graduates and trainees back to the engineering sector and put it ’where it needs to be’.
Westermo’s sales manager, Phil Mounter, said the company was now focussing on showing clients the problems that its industrial communications systems can solve under the banner ‘data communications made easy’. There’s also more of an emphasis around cyber security solutions and the need for reliable communications networks.
‘Westermo are happy and proud to sponsor the Signalling and Telecommunications Person or Team of the Year in 2017 for the fifth year running,’ said Phil. ‘Supporting good causes such as the RailStaff Awards rewards people in our industry that have gone the extra mile and also provides opportunities and inspiration for others to do likewise.’
Inspire and encourage
The award is also part of the company’s overall skills development strategy to support the industry. Says Phil, ‘We feel that this award is so important because we believe that industry needs to do much more to inspire and encourage our young people to pursue a career in engineering, and particularly the exciting field of signalling and telecommunications where, with Network Rail initiatives such as the Digital Railway, the digital age and the Internet of Things (IoT) will have an impact in transforming our UK railways as it already does in so many other industries, where soon everything will be connected to everything else.
‘We mustn’t forget of course that young men and women are educated at schools, colleges and universities before they start work. This is why Westermo has teamed up with the Solent University in Southampton to provide industrial networking equipment, invest in training and knowledge transfer of skills to professionals and students alike and are looking to do likewise with other training centres and innovation networks whose objective is to make the UK a global leader in rail.’
Information about this year’s RailStaff Awards evening can be found on the website: www.railstaffawards.com