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NSARE to work with industry to improve training practices

NSARE chief executive Gil Howarth said there are a number of “issues of concern” with the state of railway engineering training and PTS sponsorship at the moment, including evidence of 'suspect' practices.

He said there were “unhealthy relationships” between some sponsors and training providers, and that several recent whistleblowing events had led to serious investigations by Network Rail.

Speaking to NSARE’s ‘Training Matters’ conference in Derby yesterday, Howarth said there are more than 10,000 people on the Sentinel system who have been ‘de-sponsored’.

He said 20% of PTS courses were being delivered by ‘suspect’ training providers. “We are going to eradicate this,” he said.

Improving the quality of railway engineering training provision is at the heart of NSARE’s mission. The vast majority of trainers and assessors were offering a good service, the conference heard, with lots of help available to get those rated ‘good’ up to ‘outstanding’.

Howarth also criticised webs of companies that were exploiting apprenticeship schemes just to draw down Government funding, with no intention of helping the young people concerned into long-term sustainable jobs.

He explained that since the Government stopped the Train To Gain scheme, which allowed companies to access funding to train people in qualifications, some companies have started to think of apprenticeships in the same way. He said there were “worrying signs” of people setting up two companies, an employment company and training company, aimed at getting people trained to the minimum standards and out onto the tracks as soon as possible, but ‘dispensed with’ if the work didn’t roll in.

“We’re not going to tolerate young people being treated as commodities,” Howarth said.

Despite this, the vast majority of apprenticeships in the rail industry are “exemplary”, he said.

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

Image c. Ian Vernon (


Sylvia Franklin   28/09/2012 at 20:17

What a shame you decided to publicise the only negative items from two days of very positive news, strategies and ideas for the future. I hope NSARE respond to this article. What about reporting that 70% of training providers were rated as good or outstanding. Or clarifying that the 10000 "de-sponsored sentinel card holders have probably left the industry.

Robert Harris 29/09/2012 At10.22   29/09/2012 at 11:20

If Sylvia Franklins comments (dated 28/09/2012) and her arithmatic is correct, the railway industry has a massive problem. To suggest that nearly one third of training providers are incompetent and the rest meeting the standard rated 'met all' with a few 'outstanding', is appalling. I know that, from an insular perspective, Networl Rail, has an incredulous system to assess trainers (workforce development specialists) competence, that requires the team leader to adjudge a sigular 'outstanding' success against a majority of 'met all' and one below standard, even though, overall, every trainer in that team may have preformed exceptionally. (Designed solely to keep the pay awards to the minimum) It is the lack of true annual assessment for those trainer providers (and trainers alike), internally and externally, that causes the problems our industry is now experiencing; and in this railway 'safety critical' environment is ludicrously insane. If you dig under the surface of those empowered to do something about it, if they were honest, they will tell you that it is cheaper to pay an individual in court than pay for a training programme that would eliminate the cause of poor training practices. Therefore look for the incompetence throughout the managerial heirachy, it is a can of worms worth opening for the good of the railway industry as a whole.

Robert Harris   30/09/2012 at 00:10

Hello.... Is there anyone out there brave enough to discredit my statement; or is it simply ok to continue pretending to do something, rather than actually doing something positive. Another example of success failing is Virgin; it is small minded to destroy something for short term profit; this is also disloyal to the cause of a successful railway system.

Editor   01/10/2012 at 08:37

Hi Sylvia, if you look on the 'related articles' links to the right of this story, or elsewhere on our website, you'll see that we did cover all of that positive news you mention - and included in this article the fact that the vast majority of training providers are doing a good job, and that most apprenticeships offered in the industry are exemplary.

Terry   03/10/2012 at 17:39

Whilst I agree with NSARE in their vision to improve Safety and Skills Training in the Rail Industry, I feel they overlooked the main issue regarding sponsorship and safe delivery of training. The potential is there for a conflict of interest to occur between Organisations which hold or intend to hold contracts with Network Rail and their internal training departments. Therefore contractors should not be allowed to deliver approved safety and skills training to their own staff, this policy would fall in line with NSARE's vision to improve the integrity of training and assessment in the Rail Industry. The industry overall would benefit with training organisations dedicated to providing training/assessment only!

Max   07/10/2012 at 12:45

NSARE highlighted their concerns re "suspect practices", "areas of concern" and "unhealthy realtionships" within the training industry. Is it a coincidence that the top two "outstanding" training providers have links to members on the NSARE Board? I am not saying that anything fraudulent went on but this could be an area of concern maybe? Perhaps a bit of insider knowledge helped? Pots and kettles come to mind.

Howardt   09/10/2012 at 08:32

Max – I think it’s more likely that those outstanding companies have links to the NSARE board because they’re good training providers who know what they’re on about! I’m convinced the inspections were independent: a global company the size of Tribal Group wouldn’t risk its reputation by fiddling the figures on behalf of a small client like NSARE, surely.

Max   09/10/2012 at 17:20

I am sure that Tribal were independent (whether they were the right people to do the job is another matter though). Most of the training providers that I know of struggled to get any information from NSARE or Tribal as to the content and structure of the audit. They had only the previous RTAS format to follow - which Tribal ignored (NSARE want to move from a "compliance way of doing things" to an ongoing improvement regime. Maybe the 'outstanding' providers knew what was coming?

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