Military intervention keeps young rail trainees on track

Network Rail is launching one of the biggest technical apprentice schemes in the UK by recruiting 1,000 17- to 19-year-olds over five years, in an initiative that will cost the organisation £30m.

The company, which is responsible for maintaining and managing the national rail network, has opted to run a centralised residential course for its apprentices for the first year. It has contracted Flagship Training to manage the training of 200 recruits a year.

As well as receiving technical training, apprentices will also get outdoor leadership development and physical training from the Royal Navy, as well as access to sporting facilities.

Network Rail HR director, Peter Bennett, told Personnel Today: “One of the beauties of what we are doing is that we have inherited the welfare support. Only 5% of Navy recruits drop out over three years. We going to benefit from that experience in dealing with young people.”

Trainers from the Royal Navy, Network Rail, and Flagship Training will all work with apprentices while they earn 9,000 in their first year rising to 13,000 by year three.

Bennett said there were few other options but for Network Rail to buy the training itself.

“There is a shortage of this kind of training college and further education is in meltdown,” he said.

Bennett expects a good return on the investment in the long term. “We are investing in the future and the payback will be huge,” he said.

“There is very low staff turn over in the industry and relative to the billions we are investing in the network over a year, 30m seems an investment worth making,” Bennett added.

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