From education to employment

Creating career opportunities for young people – How GTR is working to encourage new talent into the industry

A look at how Govia Thameslink Railway, the UK’s biggest rail franchise, is working to encourage new talent into the industry.

Attributed to Zoey Hudson, Head of Talent, Diversity and Inclusion at Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR).

In September 2020, the UK government launched the Kickstart Scheme, with the aim of helping young people – aged 16-24 – across the country develop new skills, build confidence in the workplace, and crucially take their first steps on the career ladder. Ultimately, the goal was to provide a springboard to help secure permanent jobs.

The scheme – targeted at those receiving Universal Credit – has helped 100,000 young people enter the word of work. At GTR, we understand the vital need to increase the talent pool of young people in the rail industry and make sure we are upskilling the next generation. We want to reach the best talent across our communities and those who may struggle to gain experience in the current economic climate.

We were eager to take part in the government-backed Kickstart Scheme to reach those who are most at risk of long-term unemployment. We’re proud to have seen 22 young people through the programme with us, taking up a wealth of roles including: customer experience, events and tourism, franchise management, marketing and engineering.

We recognise the challenges facing the younger generation of today, which is why we develop initiatives specifically targeting this audience. GTR has been ahead of the rail industry in supporting the government’s agenda to tackle marginalised and left behind communities with its ‘Get into Railways’ programme in partnership with The Prince’s Trust and a dedicated Sector-based Work Academy Programme launched last year with East Sussex College.

Building talent pools for the future is a vital practice in any industry, but especially in the UK rail sector where there is more to be done to showcase the diverse selection of roles on offer. Kickstart has enabled us to give young people the chance to gain hands-on experience in the railway, giving them a much-needed step up in the career world.

One success story is Jamie Weston, aged 19. Jamie joined the Southern engineering team at our Selhurst depot in January of this year. Not wanting to go onto further education, he first entered the construction industry, before being advised by a career advisor to look into the Kickstart Scheme and apply for a six-month paid placement.

During his placement, Jamie was given a GTR mentor who helped identify and develop his skills, as well as ongoing support from his wider team. After his six-month placement was complete, a full-time position became available and after going through the interview stages for the role, he has since been made a permanent member of staff as a Level 2 Assistant Service Engineer.

Jamie Weston said:

“I left school without many qualifications and didn’t have a clue about what I really wanted to do. I went straight into working in construction as I didn’t want to go to college or university, I just wanted to start working and earning my own money. Unfortunately, construction was just temporary work and after a short while I decided to use my local Job Centre to help me look for something else.”

“Up until that point, I had never had to do a proper job interview. I was really nervous and had no idea what they were going to ask me. I came out and thought there was no way I would be offered the placement but then I had a call to say they were giving me a chance. I was shocked!”

“I started the placement in January of this year and it ended on 8th July. I interviewed for the role of assistant engineer and was really pleased to accept a permanent role with Southern. I’d never considered working in rail before this, but I’m really enjoying it and my team have been incredibly supportive. I’m now looking forward to learning and developing even more so that I can continue to work my way up in the industry.”

While the Kickstart Scheme is drawing to an end, it has only furthered our belief in the importance of continuing to create channels for young people to find their way into the workplace. Through Kickstart, we have been able to reach and give valuable life skills to young people who previously had little or no knowledge of the opportunities in the railway industry. What’s more, we have been able to take on 20% of individuals into full-time roles. Continuing to invest in creating opportunities and encouraging the next generation of talent in the industry is of the upmost importance to us – and we hope other businesses, not just in our industry but across the board – will join.

Paul Cox, Production Manager for Southern said:

“Jamie came to us as a very shy man who had clearly never been to an interview before. Over his six-month placement, he worked hard to integrate himself into the team and enhance his knowledge. Towards the end of his placement, a permanent position became available, and Jamie applied and interviewed for the role. The change in Jamie from his first and second interviews in that six-month period was vast. He came in confident and well-prepared, and we were delighted to offer him the job.

“Jamie is a perfect example of how important schemes, such as Kickstart, can give young people – who may not otherwise have access to the opportunities – gain a head start in life. He is a privilege to work with and will make an excellent engineer.”

Related Articles