Network Rail has launched a new campaign to attract more female recruits and tackle outdated perceptions of the rail industry which have led to a “scandalous waste” of talent.
Only 2% of applicants to the rail company’s apprenticeship scheme over the past five years have been women, while women made up just 8% of applicants on the graduate engineering scheme last year.
In total, 12.7% of Network Rail’s workforce is female, and in 2008-09, only 17% of external applicants for jobs at the rail company were from women.
The new recruitment campaign will initially focus on boosting female recruits onto the apprenticeship scheme using a targeted recruitment advertising campaign aimed at women.
Network Rail’s HR function will identify current female employees and ask them to attend career fairs and events to talk about their experiences and to star in adverts as case studies of workers at the rail company.
Advertising will be specifically focused on publications and websites with a known high female readership, and all-female schools will also be targeted with recruitment materials.
A revamped Network Rail website for its apprenticeship scheme will include video blogs and profiles of current female apprentices.
Iain Coucher, chief executive of Network Rail, said: “The image of the railway as an old-fashioned, heavy industry is not the picture of what I see today. I see a modern company, using 21st century technology needing a highly skilled workforce to maintain and deliver a successful and growing railway. We need more exceptional women to join us at Network Rail. I’m sure that they are being put off by an outdated image of what we do and what we need. This is a scandalous waste.
“All of us; industry, educators and government, must work harder to promote the fantastic career opportunities open to both men and women in the rail industry and engineering as a whole. If not, Britain will miss out on leading the world in this field.”
But the Transport Salaried Staff Association (TSSA) has criticised the move by Network Rail after alleging that the behaviour of the organisation’s HR director Peter Bennett has caused senior women to leave the company.