Calling at all stations to equality: UK’s largest rail company launches recruitment campaign to increase diversity on the railways. 

As National Apprenticeship & Careers Week starts today (4 Mar), GTR, which runs Southern, Thameslink, Great Northern and Gatwick Express, is campaigning to attract more women, apprentices and disadvantaged young people to consider a rewarding career in rail.

The campaign aims to:

  • Encourage more women to apply for trainee driver roles, working towards 40% female trainee train drivers by 2021.
  • Offer 140 apprenticeships across a wide range of roles, from engineering and driving, to digital marketing and customer service.
  • Help over 40 young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into full-time employment through the ‘Get Into Railways’ Scheme in partnership with The Prince’s Trust.

More female drivers than ever before

In the UK, just five per cent of Britain’s 19,000 train drivers are women, but GTR is committed to changing this and has already taken steps to address the imbalance. Last year, 30% of Southern’s trainee driver roles were taken up by women, up from 18% in 2017. In addition, a class of new trainee drivers on both Great Northern and Southern had a 50:50 gender split in 2018. GTR now has over 2,000 qualified drivers across the Southern, Great Northern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express network, the first train operating company (TOC) ever to reach this milestone.

Overall, GTR has the biggest training and recruitment programme in rail in the UK with over 700 new recruits introduced across the organisation last year and over 400 existing employees promoted to new roles. Driver recruitment is also on the rise - 700 new drivers have been trained since 2015, with a further 270 currently in training. GTR’s overarching target is that by 2021, at least 40% of applicants for train driver roles will be female.

In order to attract more women to the role, GTR has attended careers fairs across the UK to discuss the opportunities available with younger people as they embark on career choices. Recruitment of more women to the role has also been helped by all female assessment centres for trainee drivers, and a scheme which sees new female recruits paired up with another woman in the company to create female-focused support networks.

In addition, GTR have posted job adverts on forums such as Mumsnet, and a number of GTR employees work as mentors with The Girls’ Network to help young women understand the different career opportunities open to them.

Over 500 candidates were directed to the Trainee Train Driver application from Mumsnet. Justine Roberts, Mumsnet founder, commented, “We know that flexibility is a priority for our users when going back to work after having a baby, but even we were slightly surprised that GTR's advert for a trainee train driver with family-friendly working patterns generated the largest number of applications since we launched our Jobsite. But it's not a one-way track; flexibility improves retention rates and adds value for the employer too.”

The driver recruitment and training drive is part of GTR’s modernisation programme to address growing passenger numbers that have doubled in as little as 12 years on some parts of its network.

Apprenticeships for all

As well as providing more opportunities for women, GTR is aiming to offer 140 apprenticeships places this year to help young people develop their career opportunities on the railways. A third of apprenticeships were filled by women in 2018 with the aim of attracting even more women to programmes across the board in 2019. GTR has created a number of new roles to help reach this goal, including a new Apprentice Station Manager role on Southern Railway and Gatwick Express. The apprenticeships will also be open to existing GTR employees as a means of development for their career. The launch of the recruitment campaign ties in with the Government’s 12th annual National Apprenticeship Week which runs from 4 to 8 March 2019.

As the UK's largest rail franchise, covering 24% of the country's train journeys every day, GTR currently hires more engineering apprentices than any other train operating company (TOC) in the UK. Ten apprentices joining the organisation in 2018 and a further 15 set to be recruited this year. Most apprentices join the scheme after completing A-Levels and see an apprenticeship as an alternative to going to university. All apprenticeships at GTR combine college study with hands-on experience, resulting in UK-recognised qualifications.

GTR has released two commercials produced by PR Eye to launch its 2019 Engineering Apprenticeship recruitment campaign, aimed at showcasing the wealth of possibilities open to engineering apprentices. The commercials will show on screens at Victoria Station and across the network.

Prince’s Trust partnership reaching a milestone

This year will see GTR train over 40 young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to help them into full-time employment. The Get Into Railway scheme run in partnership with The Prince’s Trust sees a team of 100 GTR staff members orchestrate three intakes per year, often creating specific roles for participants following their graduation. To date, 165 young people have taken part in the programme over the course of the seven-year partnership, with the majority securing a customer service role across Southern, Great Northern, Gatwick Express and Thameslink.

The 18-25 year olds selected for the programme undertake a four-week course at a training centre on GTR’s network. The first two weeks is spent at the training centre followed by a two-week work placement on the network, with a graduation ceremony at the end of the course.

The programme focuses on practical customer service skills development and the chance to build a strong CV. The Prince's Trust helps the young people become work-ready by developing their skills and confidence.

Andy Bindon, Human Resources Director at GTR, commented: “This is a fantastic industry to work in, offering real career development and opportunities. We want our teams to reflect the communities they serve; the aim is for our growing driver population to mirror the local population with representation across society. We have so many opportunities for rewarding careers from engineering and driving, to marketing and web design, so the perception of rail being male-dominated just isn’t the reality. We have the biggest training and recruitment programme in rail in the UK so this progressive approach will help our organisation flourish and help to drive change across the sector.”

Case studies

  • Katrina-Rose Allen, 20, Croydon – Engineering Apprentice
    • Quote – “I chose to apply for the apprenticeship programme because I didn't really want to go to university as I wasn't sure what I would have studied. When I did my work experience in secondary school, I did it on various sections on London Underground and really enjoyed it, so I decided to apply for an apprenticeship on the railway. I chose engineering because I thought it would be a good way to combine my favourite subjects – Maths and Physics – and it would allow me to work with my hands, which I much prefer to be doing.”
  • Laura McDonald, 36, Forest Hill – Train Driver
    • She has been working as a train driver since she qualified at the start of June 2018. But the training is 18 months, so she actually started the process of becoming a driver at the beginning of 2017
  • Cynthia Bosombi-Mandete, 26, Barnet – Prince’s Trust course graduate
    • Quote: “This whole experience has been amazing and taught me so much. I’m a full time mum of two and I think us mums can sometimes put ourselves in boxes where we don’t feel we can grow, but now I know I can excel. Being part of the scheme has given me the determination to have a successful career, for myself, my kids and for the other mums out there.”

You may also be interested in these articles:

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Video Advert

Newsroom Activity

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page