rail worker working on the track

Building back better with apprentices

High Speed 2 and Skills Minister Andrew Stephenson has paid tribute to apprentices and their employers around the country during National Apprenticeship Week 2021.

The Minister has thanked those for stepping up to keep the country running throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

From setting up mentor programmes and using innovative technology to keep people safe through to launching Wellbeing Wednesdays, employers from across the transport sector have warranted that apprentices have been able to continue to advance their careers in their valuable placements, despite challenging circumstances.

Network Rail apprentice Callum was part-way through placement in construction management at the start of the pandemic, working on huge projects such as the installation of a dive-under beneath the East Coast Main Line.

He had to quickly adjust to working from home as lockdown meant that worksites were only accessible to those essential to the delivery of the project. He received support from his employer with daily calls to keep the team updates and received a series of talks from mentor s to compensate for the lack of face-to-face contact.

Callum said: “Despite the changes, I have still managed to continue my development and work with different teams on a range of projects. I am now on track to complete my apprenticeship as originally planned and transfer into my first role in Network Rail Design Delivery.”

Network Rail has also been arranging innovative technology to help some of their apprentices carry out their day job, including Heather who was able to use a futuristic augmented reality headset onsite to help maintain social distancing.

Heather, a Railway Systems Apprentice, said: “There have been many changes in our lives from COVID-19 and many new challenges, but at Network Rail we have adapted to this new way of working very quickly, which has made the transition much easier as an apprentice.

“Due to COVID-19, I have started working with the signalling innovations team as they needed help with a project that used augmented reality headsets onsite to help keep the 2-metre distance. Being somebody interested in technology, this was fantastic to see and get involved with.”

HS2 and Skills Minster Andrew Stephenson said: “This week is a great opportunity to shine a light on the can-do attitude of employers and apprentices during the pandemic.

“Apprentices play a pivotal role in bringing new skills and fresh perspectives into the workplace. As they gain the skills and confidence to forge a brilliant career, they lead the way in unlocking new jobs and ensuring this country has the skilled workforce it needs for the future.

“It is crucial we continue to attract and inspire a wide range of people into transport careers so we can deliver our ambitious programme of infrastructure investment as we build back better from COVID-19.”

READ MORE: Network Rail in the top 20 apprentice employers in England

READ MORE: HS2 welcomes over 400 new apprentices

Image: Network Rail 

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