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New standards developed to increase number of railway apprentices

New apprenticeship standards have been announced today to increase recruitment into the rail industry.

The National Skills Academy for Rail (NSAR) employers group has developed level 2, 3 and 4 apprenticeship standards for rail engineering operative, technician and advanced technician.

They are based on the same model of seven pathways of core and specialist knowledge, including electrification, overhead lines, signalling, telecommunications, track traction and rolling stock and rail systems.

Neil Robertson, NSAR’s CEO, said: “These apprenticeships will equip young people with high-level skills in problem solving, analytical thinking, and communication, in addition to valuable technical skills.

“The apprenticeship will provide a solid new entry route into specialist areas that are of critical importance to the whole economy. The fact that employers have led the design and development of these new apprenticeships will give organisations the confidence to recruit new talent through apprenticeships.”

The employers group involved input from Alstom, Amey, Babcock, Carillion, DB Schenker, Siemens, MGB Engineering, HS2, TfL Northern Rail, VolkerRail and Network Rail.

It was designed to meet the staffing shortage facing the rail industry, with John Evans, CEO of the HS2 college, warning at the recent iRail event that 36,000 more graduate engineers are needed every year to deliver major projects such as HS2.

The group found that future rail apprentices need to be:

  • higher skilled and multi-skilled, providing more role agility & flexibility
  • able to take a more proactive/preventative approach with more emphasis on systems thinking and diagnostics
  • aware of wider rail strategy and how their role fits within it.
  • a mix between those who wish to start at technician level and potentially progress and those who wish to start and remain at operative level.

Michelle Nolan-McSweeney, apprentice development manager at Network Rail, who chaired the group, said: “The standards we have developed demonstrate how employers can come together to address the skills challenges collaboratively, not only helping to increase the range of apprenticeships on offer, but also involving a wide network of professional bodies, educators and providers to deliver world class training.”

Simon Kirby, chief executive of HS2 and chair of the Strategic Transport Apprenticeship Taskforce, said: “It's great to see these new apprenticeships in place. They will be starting points for great careers for young women and men. Many of us started in a similar place and we are now looking for the next generation of rail leaders."

The Feb/March edition of RTM features an article by Nigel Eagers, project consultant at NSAR, on skills strategies for rail.

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