Challenging perceptions of apprenticeships in the rail industry with Anna Delvecchio

RTM talks exclusively to one of the rising stars of the industry and Transport’s Woman of the Year 2018, Anna Delvecchio.

Amey’s commercial account director, TransCityRail panellist and Rail Sector Deal co-lead, Delvecchio discusses her journey as an apprentice and how to encourage more young people to take up apprenticeships in the rail sector.

Hi Anna, what was your first role in rail, the first contract you ever awarded, and your current role?

My first role in rail was as a buyer for Railtrack many years ago. The first contract I ever awarded was to Morson Group – Ged Mason and Kevin Gorton (I will always remember the first tender I wrote!)

Fast forward many years…

My most recent role was co-leading the Industrial Strategy Sector Deal for Rail, working with the entire sector to coordinate, develop, negotiate and secure it. This was one of the best examples of collaboration with industry and government working at its best. Absolute teamwork from the entire sector! I am so pleased that we secured it in December 2018.

We are now mobilising the deal and have appointed all the government, industry and client champions. You will hear more about this at the TransCityRail Midlands event where we will have a panel session, and Rail Forum Midlands will be further explaining the opportunities for SME’s as part of the work they are leading for the Midlands pilots.

In early June I joined Amey Investments; an opportunity that I have been waiting for!

I am keen to use my business skills in an investment environment.

I believe you were an apprentice yourself when you first started out. Tell us a bit about those early days?

When leaving school (which was a very long time ago!) I wasn’t sure which profession I wanted to join or what I wanted to do but I knew that I wanted to work and study.

At this time, I remember going to a local careers centre with my school and came across apprenticeships. I guess from that day, I knew that being an apprentice was the right choice for me.

I started my apprenticeship aged 16 in an electromechanical engineering organisation. I remember the first month especially as I came across the commercial director who inspired me massively.

If I hadn’t done the apprenticeship programme I probably would never have found my chosen profession in commercial, supply chain and programme management; a career choice which I have now enjoyed for over 20 years! The commercial director inspired me to take up the profession.

Join Anna Delvecchio and a host of other high-profile speakers at the TCR Midlands conference and dinner in Birmingham on 18th July

You recently went back to be an apprentice for a week and had some apprentices shadow you too. What made you do this?

I recently went back as an apprentice for Apprenticeship Week as part of the ‘Fire It Up’ campaign to learn what some of our apprentices do and, in turn, for them to shadow me. The experience was brilliant, we have great apprentices and so many different types of apprenticeships across transport and logistics (T&L).

There were a couple of reasons why I did this:

  • I wanted to understand and learn what had changed since I did my apprenticeship and what more we could do to help apprentices.
  • To learn what support apprentices have today or may need in the future.
  • To learn from them (we can definitely learn lots from them!) by doing their job for the day.Shadowing them was just brilliant. I would encourage everybody to shadow an apprentice for half a day! The breadth of skills and talent which I saw in one week was amazing!
  • To understand the number of apprenticeship programmes T&L has to offer and how we can better promote this.

How can we encourage more young people to take up apprenticeships in the rail sector?

NSAR are doing a fantastic job with the industry on the Rail Sector Skills Delivery Plan and the target of supporting the creation of 20,000 new apprenticeships.

I believe we have started the journey, but still have more to do.

We now have several high-quality rail specific apprenticeship standards developed for delivery; as well as working with STAT, the transport industry achieved over 5,000 new apprenticeships starts in 2018.

However, I believe we still have some work to do on perception (which is one of the reasons why I went back for apprenticeship week). The perception of rail and transport roles still needs to be improved. I believe that the sector has so many great and rewarding career opportunities. We all need to work collaboratively and collectively at helping to change that. We need to take a different approach to promoting our industry and attracting future talent. I believe ‘Role Models’ play a vital role here. Apprentices who are currently working across our sector can inspire many others to join.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a combined showcase that shows the different types of apprenticeships that we have to offer using examples of current apprentices across T&L irrespective of which company they work for? I recently judged the Everywoman Apprentice of the Year Award. I met five amazing and inspiring apprentices. Absolutely role models that can help inspire the next generation to join a sector that keeps Britain moving 365 days a year in goods and services. Exciting!

Apprenticeships are not just for young people. I recently met older apprentices who took a second career choice. Both in their 50’s and enjoying every minute of it. How great is that.

READ MORE - Anna Delvecchio: Apprentice to co-leading the Rail Sector Deal

What do you think about the diversity in the rail and transport sector?

The industry is absolutely on a journey and has made many positive steps to improve diversity. However, there is still a lot of work left to do! It’s not just about gender – we need to make sure the industry is truly diverse. There is great work taking place as part of the Women in Rail and Women in Transport initiatives as well as others.

However, I have been working with CILT (Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport) over the last two months, to lead their first ever Big Logistics and Transport Diversity Challenge. I believe this is a great opportunity to bring the entire profession together to look at how we ensure diversity is tackled collectively and collaboratively. The sharing of best practice, stronger combined leadership, networks and better use of role models are all vital.

The good news is that we have over 300 individuals already attending across transport and logistics. I am keen to understand from across transport and logistics what more we can do together. Another great opportunity to drive real change.


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