Network Rail's apprenticeship scheme is a great option for those interested in a career in the railway sector. A three-year apprenticeship, all the apprentices spend the first twelve months of the programme at HMS Sultan in Gosport, living on the naval base and away from home. The second and third years continue at the apprentice's "base", back near to where they live, working with maintenance teams. As well as on the job learning, they have regular four week visits back to Gosport.
During the apprenticeship, they're given the skills and experience to develop within key maintenance functions, which include track, signalling, electrification and plant or telecoms.
"Being away from home means you have to learn to grow up pretty quickly, live with other people and find out a lot more about yourself," says Mathew Lutz, resourcing manager, New Entrants Programmes at Network Rail. "That's one of the reasons our apprenticeship stands out, it's different from going to a local college - it sets you up for a career for life," he enthuses.
What Network Rail looks for in an apprentice
The minimum education requirements for a place on the scheme is four GCSEs at grade C or above. These must include maths, english and an engineering related qualification.
"Apart from that we're looking for very enthusiastic people with a commitment to us and engineering. They need to be able to demonstrate why they want to join us, what jumps out about the scheme to them and what they want to do long term," Lutz says.
Research really comes into it, especially at interviews where you really need to stand out - in the past the company has had 10,000 people apply!
"The ones that do the research, come in with a smile and are enthusiastic are usually the ones that get the job," he says.
The Network Rail apprenticeship application process
You can apply for a place on the scheme via the company's website, which you are scored on. Pass this first hurdle and then you must do an online situational test.
"You're given 23 difference scenarios and it's multiple choice," says Lutz. "You're tested on competencies, behaviour and values."
The next step is an assessment day, which involves four different abilities tests: numerical reasoning, mechanical comprehension, technical understanding and mechanical fault finding. There's also a group exercise where you're measured on your ability to communicate, work as a team and get involved in tasks.
"There's two reasons they're tested like this," Lutz explains. " When they're down in Gosport they have to get to know each other really quickly and get on well - share rooms etc. The other reason is when they're out on the track communication is very important. If they're not talking to each other and not willing to get stuck in at 4am on a cold February day, then things go wrong pretty quickly. So they need to be competent and be willing to stand up and get involved."
The final interview
The final part of the process is a final interview at the depot you're likely to be based. Here you'll meet with the two managers you'll work closely with as you train to be a track engineer.
If you make it to the final 200 you'll be offered a placement on the scheme. You then get to head down to Gosport for an open day - with your parents - to come and look around and get your bearings, ready for the start of your career on the railways.