The UK rail industry is enormous – almost 200,000 are employed in total, working across 20,000 miles of Network Rail track for an industry worth billions of pounds. Huge corporate numbers aside it’s an incredibly rewarding industry to work in for those with a penchant for mechanical and electrical engineering, logic and problem solving, letting you put those skills to a very practical, fast-paced use.
But such a specific industry can seem daunting to break in to – where do you even begin? It can be challenging, but it’s certainly not impossible to hone your skills for the job you want, and this guest post from UK rail training and recruitment provider JAMS Training runs through how to get your foot in the door and make your way to the top.
1. Consult A Relevant Recruiter
This should always be step one; it’s always worth consulting an experienced and specialist recruiter, too, who focusses at least on engineering-based work – although rail industry work would be an even more beneficial specialism. This can help you to narrow down the kind of work you’re looking to do, what you need to do to become adequately qualified, and what kind of experience you should look to get to become as desirable as possible for these kind of positions – whether it’s a machine operator or PTS labourer.
This gives you the springboard you need to effectively get trained, get experience and start looking for the right positions for your skills and career aspirations. Without this initial research, you could spend time and money picking up irrelevant qualifications and knocking on the doors of employers without getting too many rejections.
2. Become Familiar With Industry Equipment
Even if you can’t necessarily get direct experience in the rail industry, starting to work in some kind of engineering role or taking courses in practical engineering work is a great precursor to any specific rail work or industry apprenticeships. This allows you to get familiar with the equipment, materials and techniques which are transferable to railway engineering situations – everything from hand tools and welding equipment to measuring tools and technical electrical plans.
3. Start An Apprenticeship
If you’ve not long finished an engineering-related college course, then now is the perfect opportunity to gain some practical and specifically focussed experience in the field of railway engineering. There are several apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship schemes running around the country, with JAMS offering a course specifically for 16-19 year olds.
This is the perfect approach to get your foot in the door, gain experience, qualifications and training while you work, and become a part of the industry as soon as possible – making you more employable and improving your skills sooner.
4. Undertake Qualification Training Courses
As with any job, qualifications are essential for breaking into the industry; the rail industry is no different, and has several of its own specifically relevant courses and qualifications designed to provide focussed training for the situations and working environments you’ll encounter. Personal Track Safety, COSS, Lookout and small tools training courses are all essential for various rail engineering jobs and help you to develop safety and technical skills, expanding your skill-base adding to your existing practical engineering abilities, and improving potential progression throughout the industry. Always check to see that the training provider is accredited by the National Skills Academy for Rail Engineering (NSARE), as this ensures you’re getting the right level of training for the work you want to do.
The rail industry is incredibly rewarding – letting you put your engineering and problem solving skills to practical, real-world use. Armed with a passion for engineering, as well as the right experience and industry-specific accreditations, there’s no reason why you can’t get the job you want in the rail engineering industry.
This guest post was written by Tom McShane in association with JAMS Training, one of the foremost rail training course providers and recruiters in the UK.