Foundation Apprenticeships lay tracks for Network Rail Scotland to find future workforce
Network Rail Scotland hopes to find the next generation of its workforce by introducing a fast track option on to Modern Apprenticeships for pupils taking its Foundation Apprenticeships.
In the last year, the organisation has increased its Foundation Apprenticeship opportunities from eight to 28 by incorporating online learning elements into its programme.
The move is enabling Network Rail to tap into a bigger and more diverse pool of talent.
Rachel Hollinger, Early Career Manager at Network Rail, explains: “We have offered Foundation Apprenticeships with Glasgow Kelvin College for the past few years.
"This is the first year we have added ‘fast-track’ into our programme for those looking for apprenticeships, so we are hoping to recruit a number of these through our Foundation Apprenticeships.
"So far, we have already had interest from five of the pupils, which would be great if we can convert them into hires."
Network Rail is in the process of creating a full life cycle for young people starting their careers in the Railway and the Foundation Apprenticeship is a significant part of that
Early Career Manager, Network Rail
The latest cohort of Foundation Apprenticeship pupils are taking Engineering and come from schools across Scotland.
Whilst adapting the Foundation Apprenticeship to incorporate online learning was initially a solution to restrictions from the pandemic, the new model of delivery has led to more opportunities for young people and provided them with more access from experts across Network Rail.
Whilst Foundation Apprenticeships have been available to pupils in schools from Glasgow City Council, the method of online delivery means the company is also looking to expand opportunities to cover more regions within Scotland.
Network Rail’s engineering graduates created the projects for its Foundation Apprentices, which have included building a new railway line and also designing a new train station.
For these projects the company has brought in guest speakers from across the railway to talk about their jobs and their involvement in these types of projects, to help the students better understand the reality of what they are being asked to do.
Rachel explained: “Online has definitely allowed us to take on more students which has been great.
On seeing the involvement my graduates have had with the students, I don’t see us scaling down when we return to in-person activity, as we are becoming more flexible as an organisation and our staff understand the importance of engaging with students as part of our early careers strategy.
“Through online learning we are able to access more of our colleagues throughout the business to come and speak to the students and also meant that we’ve had to think of new and creative ways to teach them visually rather than hands on.”
Network Rail also sees Foundation Apprenticeships as a way to help it create a diverse workforce.
Rachel said: “Our current pool of Foundation Apprentices is extremely diverse and I would hope that a number of these students do choose Network Rail as a future employer.
"For me, it’s important that we get in front of as many young people as possible to help them understand the different opportunities the Railway can offer and the difference they can make to our business moving forward.”
Looking ahead, Network Rail is keen to make sure it continues to offer a model of Foundation Apprenticeship that provides the best experiences and outcomes for apprentices and the business.
Rachel sees Foundation Apprenticeships as a vital part of introducing new talent into Network Rail that can support it in the long-term.
Foundation Apprentices are given information about various career opportunities available in Network Rail such as Civil Engineer, Project Managers, Station Manager and Asset Engineers.
Rachel explained: “Hopefully, with the next intake of students we will be able to meet them in person, create a bit more interactivity in the sessions and have them tour some of our facilities to show the life of the railway.
"Over the course of the years I will be taking input from more and more of my graduates to help create great projects for the students to get involved in, as well as helping to mentor them towards their own future careers.”
Rachel added: “Network Rail is in the process of creating a full life cycle for young people starting their careers in the Railway and the Foundation Apprenticeship is a significant part of that.”