Record investment creating thousands of new trainee rail professionals

More than 700 new apprentices have been recruited to Britain’s railway in the last year as it delivers a £50billion-plus upgrade plan.

And rail companies plan to hire thousands more trainees in the next five years including more women and black, Asian and minority ethnic candidates as they upgrade the railway making journeys better, local economies stronger and better connecting communities.

There are 24,000 more people working for the railway and its supply chain compared to two years ago, up 11 per cent to 240,000 compared to a three per cent increase in employment nationwide, according to new research published by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) which brings together train operators and Network Rail to improve the railway.

The boost in rail jobs has been in construction, technology and engineering. Experts have forecast more than 100,000 job opportunities in the railway in the next ten years.

The increase in apprentices in rail is part of a wider transport sector led-approach, backed by government, through the Strategic Transport Apprenticeship Taskforce (STAT) formed in 2016 which published its first annual report today (12 July), which shows that good progress is being made.

Paul Plummer, RDG chief executive and STAT member said:

“Major investment in the railway is providing career opportunities as well as making journeys better, creating long-term, highly skilled, secure jobs across Britain now and for generations to come. Working together, rail companies are delivering more than £50billion of improvements and investing for the benefit of customers and the whole of Britain.”


Notes to editors

  • More information about the variety of apprenticeships in the railway is here.
  • Between April 2016 and March 2017, train and freight operators, Network Rail, HS2 and Crossrail hired 701 apprentices.


James Kindon, Freightliner

Freightliner introduced its Engineering Apprenticeship Scheme at its maintenance facility in Southampton in 2004. The scheme has been extended into its Leeds facility as well as at Coatbridge.

The apprenticeship lasts 42 months and involves at least 20% off-the-job training where the apprentices study towards a BTEC certificate. New recruits embarking on the apprenticeship will undertake core learning including a week’s ‘Apprentice Development Programme’, giving them a basic solid grounding in the railway industry before their introduction into the workplace.

In addition to their technical knowledge, apprentices are required to demonstrate certain behaviours including acting professionally, being risk aware, self-discipline and motivation and having a proactive approach to work. They are required to work safely, reliably, efficiently, individually and as part of a team. Core skills include keeping themselves and others safe by adhering to safe work practices, planning and delivering a high standard of technical work, managing resources and problem solving.

They will be assessed throughout their apprenticeship and, following a final assessment, be fully fledged Railway Engineering Technicians.

“I learn something new every day” said James Kindon, an apprentice electrical and mechanical locomotive maintenance technician.

James added: “I now have the confidence to work alone or in a team and I get the chance to share my input in any job we undertake. In my opinion, there is no better way of learning engineering than being able to watch and do it with your hands”.

Josh Haskins, Great Western Railway

Great Western Railway’s current apprenticeship programme began in 2011 and so far, 61 apprentices have successfully completed an 18-month apprenticeship with the opportunity to gain an NVQ, BTEC or Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award.

The apprenticeship programme encompasses all strands of our business from operations, to engineering and management, and as well as the opportunity to gain a qualification, it also involves on the job training and mentoring for senior colleagues.

For Great Western Railway (GWR), recruiting and training a skilled and innovative workforce is important as it draws closer to major upgrades of our trains and track thanks to the electrification of the network and new trains as part of the Intercity Express Programme.

“The Operations and Aspire apprenticeships I have completed have been a brilliant way for me to gain knowledge and experience of the industry while developing myself as a person as well” said Josh Haskins, a former Operations Apprentice, GWR Customer Host, and Aspire Apprentice.

Josh added: “I have been able to earn a good wage, gain numerous qualifications and gain invaluable life experience while being involved in the apprenticeship schemes. I would recommend an apprenticeship to anyone who is willing to work hard.”

Nichola Wright, Network Rail

“I am a signalling technician working for Network Rail. I have recently completed my advanced apprenticeship scheme with the company, which has allowed me to pursue this job and begin my career.

“Whilst I was at school, I distinctly remember being told that university was the only possible option for me, and hearing shocked remarks whenever I mentioned the possibility of an apprenticeship. Though I always had a passion for learning, I could never envisage myself following the university path, and so this led me to look further into the world of apprenticeships and what they can offer me. I made the decision to apply for and accept my offer of a place on the scheme in May 2014 and I have never looked back, regardless of incredulous reactions from my peers.

“The scheme involved a nine-month residency at a training centre in the south of England, which allows me to develop my independence, ready for my new job position, as well a ten crucial qualifications that would help me through my career. The next two years were spent working and training at a depot near to me, allowing me to learn my craft out on the track, and occasionally returning to the training centre to earn further competencies, all whilst still earning a wage.

"As well as learning my trade, the scheme has given me other amazing opportunities. I have been able to visit my old school and talk to the students about the merits of apprenticeships, and those specifically within the transport sector. I have also been lucky enough to take part in several projects, one of which being STAT. This has allowed me to travel the country for meetings, and meet a wide variety of people which has enriched my career.

“I sing the praises of apprenticeships to everyone I meet, as it has given me opportunities beyond what I could have imagined and the chance of an incredible career.”

Contact Information

Rail Delivery Group Media Team