The National Training Academy for Rail (NTAR), in partnership with Siemens, South West Trains and Fareham CEMAST, has become one of the first rail training centres to adopt the Rail Engineering Technician ‘Trailblazer’ Apprenticeship Standard – launched by Neil Robertson, genial chief executive of NSAR, at Rail Media’s Rail Franchising and Sustainability Conference in Leeds earlier this summer.

The new standard forms part of the highly successful Siemens-SWT apprentice training programme, now in its third year, with the first cohort due to enrol this month.

The three-stage training programme will teach apprentices the fundamentals of engineering while also covering advanced subjects, including project management and rail-specific units such as passenger comfort and traction conversion. The final stage will place apprentices in the workplace, where they will develop further business- specific skills and complete their end-point assessment – a compulsory part of all new apprenticeships.

Says Dan Walker, head of apprenticeship delivery at NTAR, ‘The Siemens-SWT programme has grown over the years, and the introduction of the new standard has allowed us to take it to the next level. The learning experience that these organisations now offer together is powerful. It really sets the standard for collaboration and apprenticeship training in the industry.’

Rob Hulson, apprentice and graduate manager at South West Trains, said, ‘Our partnership has led to amazing results so far and it’s something I’m really proud to be a part of.

‘With the demands of modern trains and new technology, the next generation of  engineers need to be trained to the highest possible level. Through this partnership our apprentices have the chance to build an exciting and fulfilling career within an ever- changing industry.’

EAL is the awarding body for the new Level 3 Rail Engineering Technician apprenticeship. It plans to introduce Level 2 and Level 4 standards in January and April next year.

Says Allan MacDonald, EAL’s rail specialist, ‘EAL has a pivotal part to play in transforming the rail sector in the UK – developing  a workforce that will digitise a Victorian infrastructure.’

Trailblazer apprenticeships are at the centre of a reform of apprenticeships in England. From next year, they will replace the current framework system. One of the key features is the role employers play in helping shape the programmes.

Companies involved in the creation of the Rail Engineering Technician standard apprenticeship include Network Rail, Alstom, Hitachi, HS2, TfL, VolkerRail, Carillion, Babcock, Amey and Telent.

In this month’s training section, three apprentices from telent have spoken about their experience of joining the rail industry and how they view the engineering challenges that lie ahead.

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