South Western Railway celebrates National Apprenticeship Week 2018

Monday 05th March 2018
South Western Railway is celebrating the 11th National Apprenticeship Week (Monday 5 to Friday 9 March 2018) by sharing the experiences of two of its current apprentices. The theme for #NAW2018 is ‘Apprenticeships Work’ with a focus on what the role of apprentice involves. Paige Barrett and Ryan Sherwood talk through their experiences of the SWR engineering apprenticeship scheme.

  • SWR’s engineering apprenticeship scheme has a 98% retention rate
  • Four year scheme involves foundation year at Fareham’s Centre of Excellence in Engineering, Manufacturing and Advanced Skills Training college (CEMAST)
  • Years two, three and four combination of college placement and practical work at SWR train depots

Paige Barrett, who is 24 and originally from Kingston-Upon-Thames but now based at SWR's Salisbury Depot:

What did you do before becoming an apprentice?

My work experience prior to the apprenticeship involved working in a local independent specialist garage. This followed college studies where I completed a diploma in vehicle maintenance.

Why did you apply to become an apprentice?

Friends and family suggested I give it a shot as they know how curious I am about machines, how they are put together and maintained. I found that South Western Railway was the first company that actively wanted more women in the trade and the opportunities and education that come with the apprenticeship were a huge selling point!

What have you done since you started the apprenticeship scheme?

I’m now halfway through my third year as an apprentice at South Western Railway’s Salisbury depot. I have also been based at other depots across the country including Bournemouth and the Siemens depot in Manchester. I have seen the heritage and modern tramways in Blackpool in action, visited Hourton International in Newcastle where traction motors are overhauled and even learnt about how transmissions for diesel fleets are reconditioned and built. It’s a very hands-on apprenticeship and although it might sound very technical at times, don’t let this put you off – you will get a grounding in all the theory before being thrown in at the deep end.

What is the most enjoyable part of being an apprentice?

It’s been great to get the opportunity to expand my education and meet wonderful and helpful lecturers at the Centre of Excellence in Engineering, Manufacturing and Advanced Skills Training college. The experience I have gained while working at the Salisbury depot has also been invaluable as the fitters are always willing to share their knowledge and assist with developing practical skills.

Do you have any advice for others who might be thinking of applying to become an apprentice? 

This is a challenging apprenticeship but it will help make you an all-rounder with practical skills and a theoretical grounding in the railway.  I highly recommend it!

Ryan Sherwood, who is 23 and based at Bournemouth Depot:

What have you done since you started the apprenticeship scheme?

I have learnt a great deal about the railway as a whole as well as the rolling stock we use on the SWR network. I have gained qualifications including a BTEC Level Three and a HNC in electrical engineering. I’ve been fortunate that the apprenticeship has taken me throughout the country visiting places such as Newcastle, Blackpool, Leeds, Swanage, Liverpool, Manchester and London. I have also had the chance to travel to Germany to see new trains being built and tested - we even got to drive them on the test track at a Siemens testing centre.

What is the most enjoyable part of being an apprentice?

The most enjoyable part is getting the opportunity to see and learn about how the railway works as one – I got to spend time with British Transport Police (BTP) and Network Rail at HMS Sultan which was a real eye-opener.

Do you have any advice for others who might be thinking of applying to become an apprentice?

The advice I would give to any future apprentice is to go for it! It’s hard work but you get out what you put in. You earn while you learn and, more importantly, gain invaluable experiences and skills throughout the four year apprenticeship programme.

Rob Hulson, Fleet Apprentice & Graduate Manager for South Western Railway, said: “We are really excited to be recruiting even more apprentices in 2018.

“We are proud that we recruit from within the communities we serve and have a 98% retention rate. The scheme is hard work and we will challenge you every single day – hopefully this means you will become a key part of our workforce once the four years is complete.

“You don’t need to come from a mechanical background to apply for an SWR apprenticeship but we do ask you have a keen interest in the subject area and a practical mind certainly goes a long way. We also need applicants to have a minimum GCSE grade A – C in English and Maths. If you have got the above and drive to succeed, I would encourage you to apply for the next intake of engineering apprenticeships.”

If you are interested in finding out more about becoming an engineering apprentice for SWR, email recruitment@swrailway.com. The new intake will start late summer and applications are due to be open from April 2018.