1. Please give an overview of your role and what this involves on a day-to-day basis:
My role as an Overhead Lines apprentice is a varied and challenging position, as there are a variety of placements to be completed which provide good experience and understanding of the different departments within Network Rail and how they come together to ensure safe and efficient operation and maintenance of the railway.
2. Have you learnt any new skills or developed existing skills?
Yes, not only did we complete academic qualifications in the first year of training, but working at Network Rail provides a constant education in acquiring new knowledge and developing new ways of completing tasks both in the office and out on track.
3. To what extent do you enjoy your programme?
I have really enjoyed my time on the scheme so far as it has given my life an exciting new direction and I feel many further opportunities still lie ahead in what could be a long and rewarding career. Further education is also available should employees feel they wish to take on more challenges and learn in greater detail about the technical and theoretical aspects of the work.
4. How valued do you feel by Network Rail?
As a young apprentice in Network Rail, I feel very well looked after and a valued member of the team. Not only in the training aspects as we attend various courses and modules throughout the apprenticeship, but also at my home depot where existing staff are experienced, knowledgeable and share some of their expertise which is very helpful in assisting new members such as myself to develop.
5. How well organised/structured is your programme?
A previous template exists for the placement programme for years 2 and 3 though this is more of an example which apprentices are expected to organise and plan out the necessary work, through which they can complete all the coursework to the required standard. This is however difficult to follow with accuracy due to many factors out of our control, such as changing of training dates, availability of accommodation or transport, availability of facilities or key staff etc. so you have to be very flexible during the second year as things change a great deal as you go along.
6a. How much support do you receive from your training provider?
Babcock was our training provider in the first year who provided a good experience and education for the start of the 3 year scheme. The facilities were fantastic and the support from the staff was generally very good.
6b. How much support do you receive from your employer?
Network Rail is very supportive of apprentices both in the training aspects of the job and in day to day activities at the depot. We have several OLE modules that we attend at a training facility in Walsall which has great instructors, facilities and kit with which to practise.
7. How well does your salary/package meet your costs?
As an apprentice our pay is obviously at the lower spectrum of the companies offerings but in terms of apprenticeships it is actually very good. I feel it is a reasonable amount of money for what we are expected to achieve though any shortcomings during this training period are soon made up for after qualifying as I feel the salaries of the permanent maintenance positons are much better. As I live 40 miles from my depot transport is a substantial outgoing for me and a significant portion of my earnings is spent on simply getting to and from work.
8. Are there many opportunities outside of work?
As a depot there have been previous charity events organised by staff such as cycling the length of the country and more recently a Total Wipeout team so there are sociable and philanthropic activities occasionally should people wish to organise them.
9a. Would you recommend Network Rail to a friend? *
9b. Why? *
Yes, absolutely because the scheme has been the best thing I have done in my life so far, and it opens up so many other opportunities further down the line, whilst providing you with a variety of academic qualifications, practical skills and abilities as well as the chance to work for a good company which values its staff.
10. What tips or advice would you give to others applying to Network Rail? *
If you are interested, apply for the apprenticeship scheme, persevere through the application stages such as the online tests and assessment centres and ensure that you are committed to spending time away from home for training, unsociable hours such as nights and weekends, and potentially long commutes as these are some of the drawbacks. But, the opportunities along the way, the training you receive, the qualifications you can gain and the experience you acquire are all fantastic and can lead to a long and bright future in Network Rail or wherever life takes you further down the line.
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