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ASLEF and Virgin to create ‘next generation of drivers’ with new apprentice scheme

ASLEF and Virgin Trains have started what they claim is the industry’s first-ever driver apprenticeship scheme launched by a train operator, which will take place over a year-long period.

Initially the training programme attracted over 1,200 applications but, after an intense 16-stage recruitment process, three top applicants have been chosen.

Apprentices will receive training in all aspects of the train driver role plus additional training in functional skills, including English, Maths and ICT.

They will shadow drivers as well as train managers and station staff so they can gain a full appreciation of how their role fits the entire system – as well as benefitting from further rotations at Virgin Trains and spending time with other Virgin companies, including Virgin Atlantic.

Kevin Lindsay, district organiser for ASLEF, commented: “We welcome this joint initiative and look forward to continuing development of the driver apprenticeship scheme with Virgin Trains West Coast as this is a great opportunity to bring young people into the rail industry and particularly the driving grade.”

Director for human resources at Virgin Trains West Coast, Patrick McGrath, said he was delighted at launching the programme and explained that the scheme was designed by an ex-apprentice with the intention of making it as appropriate as possible to trainees.

“At Virgin Trains we believe in giving our staff the tools to innovate and it’s great to see that one of our former apprentices has used his skills to truly shake up the industry,” he added.

“It is clear that the appetite for high-quality training in the rail industry is still there and we look forward to inviting the next generation of train drivers to come join us at Virgin Trains.”

Samantha Jones, 24, from Manchester, will be joined by 29-year-old Simon Tyrer from Preston and 19-year-old Joe Wilson from Liverpool to make up the first three apprentices.

She said: “I am so happy to have the opportunity to be able to dive straight into this apprenticeship and build on the skills I’ll need as a driver. It’s given me a clear picture of what the role is actually like and everyone has been so supportive along the way.”

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Andrew Gwilt   16/11/2017 at 04:26

That comes as when the VTEC Class 800’s and Class 801’s that will enter service from next year.

Richard B   16/11/2017 at 06:42

Except it looks like that’s the West Coast company...

James Palma   16/11/2017 at 15:44

Excellent! Well done Virgin and ASLEF for working together and providing what seems a wide ranging education and career prospect to three young people.

Mark Hare   20/11/2017 at 12:12

So all this fanfare and they take on only three apprentices!? Is that the best they can manage? And the driver's role is clearly defined, what exactly they hope to achieve by what appears to be 'work experience' at other Virgin companies is unclear. Maybe they expect the driver to walk down the train with a refreshment trolley and explain the emergency evacuation procedure before returning to the cab to drive the train?

Salty Saltlord   20/11/2017 at 17:51

Mark Hare, are you a disgruntled railway worker who failed the tests to become a driver or do you apply this negative form of logic to all things in life?

Mark Hare   21/11/2017 at 17:03

@Salty Salford - no, and no again in answer to your questions. When I first heard of this scheme I expected to be told of twenty, thirty forty apprentices being taken on - if 'the next generation of train drivers' amounts to three trainees then the railway industry is going to become short on manpower fairly quickly, surely? But of course, congratulations to the three candidates who were successful out of the 1,200 applicants.

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