Looking to the future with the YRP

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Apr/May 2014

The Young Rail Professionals organisation held its fifth annual dinner in March, including a keynote address from Mike Brown, managing director of London Underground. The event also provided a chance for new chairman Adam Stead to set out his vision for the growing organisation. RTM spoke to him.

The Young Rail Professionals (YRP) had its genesis in 2009, when the chairs of four ‘young members’ divisions of the major professional rail institutions decided to launch a separate organisation.

Each of those four (Rob Mullen, Martin Fenner, Paul Cooper and Martyn Chymera) went on to chair the YRP for a one-year term, but its new chair, Adam Stead, came onto the YRP committee from a lesser-known rail organisation: INCOSE, the International Council on Systems Engineering.

Stead admitted that since those early days, the links with professional engineering institutions have been “starting to wane”, so a dedicated person is being put in place to manage those relationships and keep the links strong.

He told RTM: “We’re also keen to broaden our reach away from just the technical – we also cover operations, legal, project management, HR, marketing and everything you find in the railway. We need to start finding institutions that might not have considered integrating with the railway, and we’ll be trying to forge some new links.”

Doubling the membership

Stead’s key aim is to continue growing the membership. He told RTM: “My vision for this year is to double our membership. It’s currently at 1,300, and I want that to be at 2,500 this year. We’re doing that by expanding into regional branches and through building closer links with companies.”

The regional branch strategy is already marching forwards, especially for Scotland, the East Midlands, and the Western regions.

He said: “Our objective is to promote, develop and inspire young people working in the rail industry, and to promote the rail industry to those who are still in education – which we can struggle to do from London.

“The YRP had an early emphasis on ‘bringing together’, which formed the bulk of our activities in the first two years or so: networking events, trying to get people from different parts of the country talking to each other, primarily via our black tie dinner and summer barbecue events. In the past 12 months, we’ve gone to having an event each month: a seminar or workshop or conference. In our London region alone we have a pipeline of 22 events.”

RTM’s Roy Rowlands attended the YRP dinner, which as usual attracted lots of non-members too – especially companies buying tables and bringing people along. Stead made clear that a key aim for the YRP is converting these corporate ‘guests’ into full members. The YRP now offers a corporate membership scheme, costing from £500 to £10,000 a year. The YRP is not-for-profit, and all money raised goes back into its schemes and events.

Promoting the industry

The YRP’s Ambassadors scheme sub-committee is also seeking new partners to help it promote the rail industry to young people and those in education as efficiently as possible. The YRP is launching a new video promoting the industry as a career choice, put together with RRUKA and the RSSB. That will be shown at June’s RRUKA, FutureRailway and YRP ‘Next Generation Rail’ conference in Manchester. (RTM reported on last year’s inaugural event, held at The Crystal in London, in our Aug/Sept 2013 edition.)

The YRP is also coordinating a university careers presentation programme, which Stead said should reach 40 universities in the next academic year, also part of the ‘Routes into Rail’ programme. The online careers tool will describe the range of rail industry opportunities available to someone still in education, to show the range of things they could do, indicate what direction their career path might take, what their expectations could be, and the requirements for each role.

Stead, who gave his acceptance speech at the dinner, has previously described his new role as “scary, but exciting too”, and a “huge responsibility”.

In an interview for the YRP’s own website, he said: “I see my job as chairman to help rally good people together and make sure they have the support they need to see their ideas turned into reality, and make sure we keep getting new people into the committee to keep our ideas fresh and do my best to keep the ‘Young’ in YRP and have fun doing it.”

Making rail the first choice

He told RTM that his own route into the industry helped highlight the problem: rail was not his first choice, as it wasn’t something
he’d considered. As a systems engineering graduate in 2009, his first ambition was the Royal Navy or defence companies, or perhaps Jaguar Land Rover.

It was only by chance that he “stumbled” across Atkins and discovered its need for systems engineering graduates for the rail industry. He said it was at that stage he started to consider it, and realised that the railway “would be an environment with lots of complex systems to get my teeth into, and to help make a difference”.

Stead worked with Atkins at Swindon on major signalling programmes at concept and feasibility stage, before moving to Invensys Rail to work in automatic train control for the Victoria line upgrade. He then joined Colas Rail, working on design management for multi-disciplinary main line projects in the Western & Wales region. Now he is with QinetiQ in Bristol, looking to build a rail market offering for the company’s technologies and expertise.

He was at the first black tie dinner in 2010, having heard about it through the IET, then got more involved in the YRP from 2012. He said the most recent dinner was another success, helping inspire senior leaders to continue to support the YRP while bringing hundreds of young rail professionals together for an important social occasion.

The event had 490 guests and was oversubscribed, meaning the YRP is now seeking a bigger venue than the Grand Connaught Rooms at Covent Garden for the future.


The dinner also saw the Young Rail Professional of the Year Award ceremony.

The winner was Jamie Leigh-Clayton of Siemens Rail Automation. She is a former Apprentice Champion of the Year, having completed an Advanced Apprenticeship in Engineering with Invensys Rail in 2010.

She graduated top of her class with two IRSE licenses, and has gone on to gain a further licence and achieved professional
accreditation as an Engineering Technician, as well as helping others to get their IRSE Assistant Designer’s licence. She has worked
on a number of international projects as well as working in research and development on the ERTMS project, and is also a STEM and YRP Ambassador.

The runners-up for the YRP award were Victoria Sutherland, Matthew Leavis and Beth Willoughby.

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