1. Please give an overview of your role and what this involves on a day-to-day basis:
I am an apprentice track maintenance engineer. My day to day role involves carrying out tasks on rail tracks that ensure that trains are able to run safely and effectively. I work with a track team, and we are assigned our planned work each day, which must be completed in the given time scale. We must always follow our safety guidelines, as our job involves working in dangerous areas.
2. Have you learnt any new skills or developed existing skills?
The first part of my qualification is Performing Engineering Operations. This involves several learning modules, such as: Working safely in engineering environments, use of hand tools, mechanical principles, mathematics and communicating information using technical drawings. On track, I am learning key aspects of railway maintenance, such as the inspection of rails to find any damage, and ensuring points are in good condition for trains to switch between rails.
3. To what extent do you enjoy your programme?
So far I have been enjoying my apprenticeship. I have spent five months at the Westwood training centre to complete the first part of my performing engineering operations module, and have recently started at my depot. In terms of meeting my expectations, I am disappointed that the company hasn't effectively communicated certain pieces of information to me.
4. How valued do you feel by Network Rail?
In some ways I do feel valued by Network Rail. I appreciate the quality of the training, and the living conditions at the Westwood training centre. My depot manager has been very accommodating during my time here. My work does get recognised, as I did receive some positive reviews from my tutors at Westwood. I felt as though my involvement in group tasks was unappreciated by my team, as they did not wish to put in as much effort, and simply sponge from my work.
5. How well organised/structured is your programme?
My induction was very well organised and structured. We had many meetings and presentations outlining what we could expect from the first part of our course. The quality of training varied between instructors, some were better than others. I had plenty of time to study and complete my assignments, which was good. In terms of what happens after Westwood, they were poor at organising this. My manager didn't even know I was coming on my first day.
6a. How much support do you receive from your training provider?
Again, this varied from person to person with our instructors. If I ever needed any specific guidance on a task, my tutors were usually available to ask for assistance. Generally our tutors were there to support us, and didn't make us feel like an inconvenience. I enjoyed some of this part of my training, however failed to see the relevance of some aspects, such as learning health and safety regulations, but not how it fits into the railway industry.
6b. How much support do you receive from your employer?
My depot manager is very supportive of my progress. Despite not actually being told that I was arriving on my first day, he still made efforts to find out the information that he needed. The HR team has been helpful when needed. In terms of problems, it can sometimes be difficult to track down whom I should be speaking to in order to resolve any issues.
7. How well does your salary/package meet your costs?
Because of my personal situation, the salary package is currently very poor. In order to take this job, I have had to relocate which is costing me almost my entire monthly wage in rent. After buying food and essentials, that leaves me with barely any money to do anything with, and will be this way for another six months. My second year wage is more manageable, but for now it is a struggle.
8. Are there many opportunities outside of work?
While staying at Westwood, there was always something to do. Our intake was divided into Houses, similar to schools, and we competed in weekly sporting activities and quizzes for points. Myself and a group of people took part in a 10K run for charity, which took place at a local area. There was a train station nearby which allowed easy access to Birmingham, where there was always lots to do.
9. Would you recommend Network Rail to a friend?
For the most part, it is a well structured program, with many opportunities for future progression. When fully qualified, the money is very good. The course has several different paths to work down, on different aspects of railway engineering, all of which will provide valuable skills which can be built upon in the future. The qualifications gained will open a lot of doors.
10. What tips or advice would you give to others applying to Network Rail?
Be as detailed as possible on the application forms, and make sure that you have all of the necessary paperwork, such as exam certificates. Plan your responses to interview questions in advance, so that you have a good answer to give. On the assessment day, get as involved as you can, be confident and open with people, try to stand out! I would have liked a much simpler breakdown of the process after leaving Westwood, and would have liked to have been in contact with my manager a lot sooner, so that my first day could have gone smoother.
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