Network Rail on track to recruit 150 engineering apprentices

Owen Flanders

Owen Flanders - Credit: Network Rail

Signal maintenance engineer Owen Flanders is steaming ahead for a senior career on the railways and has taken part in a campaign to recruit 150 more Network Rail apprentices.

Owen works on the mainline from Liverpool Street to Norwich, which carries 32 million passengers a year.

The 28-year-old started as a teenage apprentice in 2007 and worked his way up to signal maintenance engineer, managing a team of 100.

Now he has gained a Bachelor’s in engineering and is soon to complete a Master’s degree at university, being paid for by Network Rail.

“The usual route after school would be college and then university,” Owen explains. “But learning while earning a wage has meant I can apply what I learn in the classroom to real life experience on the track.

“I can have a job and go onto higher education at the same time.”

Network Rail wants to challenge the stigma linked to apprenticeships and is calling on teachers, parents and employers to explain to youngsters about the benefits.

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Its chief executive Mark Carne said: “You can reap rewards with the right work ethic alongside those who choose university. Many of our apprentices go on to higher qualifications, including degrees, through our education programme.”

Network Rail is recruiting 150 apprentices as part of a £40bn upgrade. Its Advanced Apprenticeship scheme is a three-year programme giving skills and experience to become a maintenance engineering technician. The scheme is open to those over 17, with no upper age limit.

Apprentices in the first year are paid £8,400 plus £1,150 if they finish the year successfully, then £11,750 in the second year and £14,000 in the third. They get NVQ, BTec and ILM qualifications after three years.

Network Rail also pays first year meals, accommodation and protective equipment and clothing and for travel home for long weekends and holidays.