When it comes to advertising railway careers and the opportunities they offer, it’s helpful to have supportive voices fighting for the cause. With a daunting skills deficit on the horizon, the railway needs a grassroots movement from its staff, many of whom will no doubt have pursued their careers on the advice of friends and family.
Lois Medley, an apprentice at WSP, said it was a friend who told her about the great opportunities on offer for aspiring engineers. She’s now completing a Level 3 BTEC in building services engineering as part of WSP’s rail team in London.
“After speaking to family, teachers and friends, I decided to go for an apprenticeship. I’m more of a practical learner, so for me it’s proving to be much more rewarding and challenging than sitting in a classroom. I love working on real projects that benefit people’s everyday lives,” said Lois.
Arriva Trains Wales’ community rail apprentice, Danielle Hopkins, who features on the cover of this month’s issue, shares this view. She’s been in the role for just a few months but has described the experience as “invaluable”.
There are, of course, lots of ways that the industry is being promoted as an exciting, fulfilling career path. Documentaries like the Fifteen Billion Pound Railway, which documented the construction of Crossrail, and the Paddington Station 24/7 series – so popular it has just returned for a third series – do a good job to show what it is really like to work on the railway.
But rail will always be competing with more glamorous fields for the best engineering talent.
The Big Bang fair – probably the biggest science and engineering careers event in the country – was held in March and had tens of thousands of young people come through its doors. The rail industry had a strong presence, with the likes of Network Rail, HS2, Thales and the Institute of Railway Operators (IRO) all attending but, surrounded by robotics companies, giants from the energy sector and the world’s biggest car manufacturers, they were always going to be fighting for attention.
With the number of students pursuing STEM subjects into further and higher education staying relatively static, while demand for engineers continues to rise, investment in attraction is as high as it ever has been. This is why friends and family can be such a persuasive influence.
For our training focus in this month’s issue, we spoke to Stewart Beard, a trainer operator for London Underground, about the 4LM driver training programme. His enthusiasm for the industry was clear. One of the proudest moments of his career to date was being on the footplate of Met Locomotive No. 1 during the London Underground’s 150th anniversary celebrations.
Anyone who is passionate about the industry should make sure they share that passion with those closest to them. Get out there and spread the word.