1. Please give an overview of your role and what this involves on a day-to-day basis:
The first 7 months involve learning basics in a classroom environment. Once at depot my day to day role can vary greatly. I can be working nights and weekends. The actual work itself involves either maintaining the railway by replacing small defective parts, or larger work such as replacing a whole crossing or switch
2. Have you learnt any new skills or developed existing skills?
I have learnt how to work more effective within a team. Big jobs can involve many people and they get done much quicker and much more efficiently if one person makes the decisions and if everyone knows the job and their roles. I have learnt many other skills such as leadership, listening and general hand tool skills.
3. To what extent do you enjoy your programme?
Every day is different. From working days in the office to working nights out on the railway. Jobs can be relatively straight forward to challenging. Sometimes we will have to find solutions to unexpected problems. All this variety leads to an all round enjoyable experience.
4. How valued do you feel by Network Rail?
Network Rail invest a lot into their apprentices and as a result they want to keep their apprentices and ultimately they want them to progress to higher roles. The apprenticeship is 3 years long and throughout the three years I will have placement with various different departments and complete many training modules to help me in my railway career. I feel very valued by Network Rail.
5. How well organised/structured is your programme?
The programme is very well structured. The plan for the first 7 months is set out much like a school timetable. After the first 7 months you are given dates for when the training modules take place. You are given a training manual with essays to complete and the date they must be completed.
6a. How much support do you receive from your training provider?
The first 7 months Babcock provide the training. Apprentices live on site and are provided with food and accommodation free of charge. There is a lot of support in learning and many of the tutors are more than willing to provide extra support if needing.
6b. How much support do you receive from your employer?
The depot I am at is very supportive and has assigned me a mentor to assist me in my learning when out on the railway. Network Rail overall is supportive as they provide continuous training for 3 years including a leadership course to improve confidence in leading jobs.
7. How well does your salary/package meet your costs?
The first year salary was 8.5k, even though food and accommodation was provided this was very little compensation for the amount of hours worked. This has since been increased to 9.5k. Year 2 and 3 is around 14k depending on age with the opportunity to increase this with overtime and night shifts. In conclusion 1st year is poor pay year 2 and 3 are acceptable.
8. Are there many opportunities outside of work?
As a team we have had team bonding sessions after work to improve morale. Network Rail provide 28 days holiday and bank holidays. This allows plenty of rest days to reset and switch off from work and come back feeling refreshed.
9. Would you recommend Network Rail to a friend?
An apprenticeship is a great alternative to going to university. The Network Rail one in particular allows great and diverse career options and a great salary and pension. Working for a company as large as Network Rail comes with many benefits such as extra holidays and sick pay. It is good to actually apply the hands on skills you are learning rather than university where the learning can feel quite abstract in that you may never use what you have learnt.
10. What tips or advice would you give to others applying to Network Rail?
Ensure the flexible working required of you is suitable for your lifestyle. You will not have a routine and will work nights and weekends. Nights and weekends do come with the perk of extra pay and can be great fun but it is not for everyone. But it has great career prospects and can be very rewarding.
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