Kirsty Derry, HR Director of East Midlands Trains

Trailblazer, Kirsty Derry, HR Director of East Midlands Trains tells us why the launch of the new Train Driver apprenticeship has put the industry on the right track:

What will a Train Driver apprentice be able to do at the end of the apprenticeship?

Our apprentices will be trained in many areas of driving and maintaining the trains and rail network.  They will be able to drive a train competently and safely.

They will also be taught how to work in a range of railway areas, such as depots, sidings or maintenance sheds. They will deal with moving passengers, goods, and empty coaches. Some may also perform maintenance work involving machines that are driven on the tracks.

Will they be working with one particular railway environment and type of train, or will it range?

The type of train they will be taught to drive will depend on who they work for, because train types differ between companies. They will also be able to work in many different areas such as on high speed trains, passenger trains, freight trains or on the London Underground.

Are they involved with the business side of things at all?

Yes, throughout the apprenticeship they will have developed some strong commercial awareness such as, franchising arrangements and business goals. They will also know how to drive a train in a way that will keep fuel and maintenance costs down and minimise financial penalties.

How about health and safety?

Apprentice Train Drivers will know how to maintain a safe and secure environment, on a constant basis. They will also know how, and when, to challenge unsafe safety practices.

They will be able to give clear and accurate verbal communications and will understand how to make instant decisions during incidents and unexpected emergency situations.

Does the apprenticeship involve people skills?

Train drivers will learn how to recognise both company internal and external customers, focusing on the manner in which the message is delivered.

They will know how to redirect customer enquiries to the appropriate personnel, when they are unable to deal with them themselves.

Is there a good chance of progression for these apprentices? Where could this apprenticeship lead to?

This apprenticeship is a great way to get in to many different areas of work in the rail industry. Many of the skills taught are transferable. Depending on the type of company, a train driver apprenticeship could lead to senior management in an operational role, or to a career training others how to drive trains.

How does this apprenticeship improve on what went before?

The rail sector is now moving forward at a fast pace. Its involvement with both security, and digital technology has increased. As has its involvement with newly developed kinds of trains and other vehicles used on railways.

Train drivers today need to be able to react and make decisions unsupervised. They must be able to make judgements and know the risks when unexpected emergency situations arise. We’ve ensured that the new apprenticeship delivers on all these skills.

Will this new development add to the health of the industry, and if so how?

In 2016, the Department for Transport (DfT) published the Transport Infrastructure Skills Strategy, which highlighted the skills challenges facing the transport industry. It was clear that the industry’s increased use of technology and the emergence of the digital railway, was redefining the way people work, and creating a skills and capability gap across the entire sector.

We realised there was a need to establish an industry-recognised standard to create a professional train driver workforce. And this standard needed to fully reflect current industry and workforce needs, as well as those of today’s society.

The launch of this revolutionary new standard will help ensure that we have the right number of competent train drivers, who possess the right skills. It will also enable the industry to ensure sustained growth. It’s great news for the industry, apprentices, and all involved.

Kirsty Derry, HR Director of East Midlands Trains

Written on behalf of Institute for Apprenticeships

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