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Gen Y Rail kicks off in the North East

Talented school and college students who attended the first Gen Y Rail event yesterday have come away from the day enthused about the idea of a career in the rail industry.

The day was the first in a series of educational engagement events being put on by the UK Rail Industry Training Trust (UKRITT) across the country.

Over 150 students from seven schools and six colleges across the north east came together at the Great North Hancock Museumin Newcastle for the event, at which they worked in teams on an engineering and design challenge, and heard from people currently in the industry and apprentices about what a great career it can be.

The competition was aimed at bringing industry professionals together with the next generation of potential recruits, to start to address the future skills gap in rail.

A series of presentations by young people working in the industry provided further inspiration, and showcased the range of entry routes into rail. The students heard from Amanda White, senior route engineer for HS2, andSpencer Hufton,the safety and compliance manager for South West Trains, as well as junior engineers and apprentices about their own experience.

Each team had a mentor to help them with the engineering challenge; students were tasked with designing a new train that would transport staff, students and an artefact from the museum up to Edinburgh.

An exhibition and industry professionals were on hand to answer any questions, to give advice on future career choices, and to explain how they themselves got into rail.

Mission Room technology was on display, giving students the chance to see the railway in action from inside a pod giving them a 360-degree perspective. Its 4D modelling capabilities are already in use by Network Rail to improve safety when planning possessions, but can be applied in a number of different ways. One student commented: “It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before!” Older members of the audience were no less eager to have a look inside.

Students achieved a CREST Discovery award for their hard work, courtesy of the British Science Association (BSA). The CREST scheme seeks to reward school and college-aged pupils for their project work, and the Discovery award is the first in a series of awards they can work towards with the BSA.

Some of their solutions were funny and some were insightful, but all the students demonstrated an ability to think critically about the problem and come up with some innovative answers.

A number of teams had come up with trains driven by technology, not people – perhaps a pertinent sign of things to come for the industry. Other interesting suggestions included an emphasis on solar power, disabled access, and electric power.

Following their presentations, the Dragon’s Den-style panel of judges came up with the winners, based on the effectiveness, cost and ingenuity behind their ideas, as well as their ability to communicate that as a team. Two school teams and two college teams were picked and will go on to the national final in June, which will be held at Network Rail’s Westwood facility.

The winners were: ‘On the train of thought’, from Framwell Gate; ‘Bright Sparks’; ‘Wild Cats’, from Queen Elizabeth college; ‘Trainiacs’, from Stockton Sixth Form. ‘HMS Junior Engineers’, from Heaton Manor School also received a commendation from the judges.

Pete Donovan, apprentice programme manager for Network Rail, said: “It’s been really enjoyable! There’s some great young people here and a lot of opportunities for them.”

And Yasemin Tezel, project manager at NSARE, said: “I think kids will go home today and think ‘Actually, I want to go into the rail industry’. Or have some sort of work experience later on, which is so important. It’s good to embed it in their minds from a young age.”

Richard Merrills, managing director of SigAssure UK, said: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed today, I think it’s been a long time coming. The industry has been asking for something like this for a long time now, and I’ve always been keen to engage with the youth of tomorrow.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]


Tarek Ibrahim   14/02/2014 at 13:13

It is active event which needed for schools' students,to create more interest towards Railway industry/filed from different ways. this may be as an example to be promoted by guide/PDF and video shows the complete program to be promoted not only in Europe but in other countries world wide. we follow up that effective events as the Railway Industry/Field is vital matter for development on this planet. Our congratulations and for more success with good events which add value. Tarek Ibrahim (Pilot Rtd.) Founder, Owner and Manager MISR for commercial marketing EGYPT

Rob Hulson   14/02/2014 at 17:03

The event was in my opinion a great success. We need to encourage and develop these talented young individuals so as to encourage them to think of the Railway industry as an exciting and rewarding place to work.

Nonsuchmike   15/02/2014 at 10:50

The whole event was tremendous fun for all the young people who attended. I was impressed with their attention to detail, especially about transporting the Polar Bear (remember the one on wheels?), arguably the most powerful and ferocious of land animals in the world. Some of their efforts as a team or as individuals would have put many of their elders and supposed betters in the shade for presentation and delivery skills. - and some of them were only just 11. The care with which they thought of incorporating braking systems, temperature control, passenger comfort, energy efficiency and "green" concerns tells me that the future is safe in their hands, provided my generation which has managed to botch things up in a grand manner will only give them half a chance. Well done to those organising the events across the country, and well done to those YP who participated.

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