1. Please give an overview of your role and what this involves on a day-to-day basis:
My role is an Track Maintenance Engineering Technician Apprentice. This means that I am training for a role in the day-to-day maintenance of Network Rail's track infrastructure. In my role I spend most time with the Track Maintenance sections, carrying out tasks such as renewing components, carrying out track inspections and restoring track geometry; as well as the Track Technical Office, where I carry out tasks such as surveying, gauging and measuring, etc. I also visit sections outside the track discipline such as signalling and electrification, in order to gain a better overview of how Network Rail operates.
2. Have you learnt any new skills or developed existing skills?
I have learnt skills in track work, surveying, and gained many railway engineering competencies which can take years to earn outside of the Apprenticeship.
3. To what extent do you enjoy your programme?
I have generally enjoyed my time on the apprenticeship program. It has had it's ups and downs, generally due to the apprenticeship management occasionally forgetting that we are employees and treating us like children. Examples would be scheduling review meetings in the evenings when on the navy base, outside of working hours with no regard to the fact that we have lives to lead, and the draconian uniform regulations on base such as having to wear polished work boots at all times during working hours, because back when we were allow to wear black trainers 'some people wore black trainers with white stripes on them'.
4. How valued do you feel by Network Rail?
Generally I do feel fairly valued by the teams that I work with, but on such a large scheme in such a large company it is easy to feel a little sidelined or neglected.
5. How well organised/structured is your programme?
The first year program, delivered totally at HMS Sultan, is very well structured and laid out. When you reach the second and third years, however, you are given a list of placements with suggested durations and told to get on with it. It is all to easy to be pressured into skipping some out on the grounds that 'you'll never have anything to do with that department after the apprenticeship'.
6a. How much support do you receive from your training provider?
In the first year, training is provided by Babcock who generally provide good support across all aspects of the apprenticeship. In the second and third years, where training is primarily provided by Network Rail itself, support can be a little harder to come by, given the fact you may go months without seeing any of the apprenticeship staff, and the managers are frequently snowed under by the pressures of the 'real railway'.
6b. How much support do you receive from your employer?
7. How well does your salary/package meet your costs?
The first year wage is £8400 per annum, which worked out as just over £600 per four weeks. However, you also get free food and accomodation in that first year, so that works out alright. The wage increases to £11750 in the second year, and £14000 in the third, which is a more than acceptable wage for an apprenticeship.
8. Are there many opportunities outside of work?
The skills from the Network Rail apprenticeship can easily be used to gain opportunities with other railway companies in the UK and across the globe. These are backed up by the high esteem that Network Rail and it's apprenticeship are held in by other rail engineering firms.
9. Would you recommend Network Rail to a friend?
It has provided me with the skills and qualifications to reach for the sky in the railway engineering field, and despite a couple of flaws it is a very good scheme.
10. What tips or advice would you give to others applying to Network Rail?
Make sure you research the different disciplines before coming to a decision as to which one you want to go for, because they are all very different roles with wildly varying skill sets.
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