From education to employment

‘Rail apprenticeship helped me overcome my dyspraxia’

An aspiring rail engineer has told how his @CollegeNELondon #apprenticeship has helped him manage his #dyspraxia. 

Chris Redshaw is undertaking an apprenticeship with engineering giant Bombardier at the London Rail Academy based at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL).

The 19-year-old, from Sittingbourne, Kent, was diagnosed with dyspraxia, a neurological condition that affects physical co-ordination and social skills, when he was at secondary school.

“My training has actually helped me to overcome and manage it,” said Chris, when asked about how dyspraxia had impacted on his apprenticeship.

“When I first started my apprenticeship, I would take longer than others to do things and perform certain tasks. I had trouble keeping up and would often fall behind. At CONEL and at Bombardier I have always felt supported and my timekeeping and organisation has improved significantly.”

Chris’s enthusiasm for trains and railways goes back to when he was a young boy, and in his early teens he began volunteering on the East Kent Railway Trust heritage railway.

He said: “I have always I wanted to pursue a career in rail. Railways are very complex and it has always fascinated me at how it all works together. My voluntary work on the East Kent Railway also inspired me. I got to see first-hand what it takes to keep trains running.”

Chris completed a Rail Engineering Level 2 Apprenticeship with Bombardier and now works for the company as Maintenance Assistant while undertaking a Level 3 apprenticeship.

He was named the National Training Academy for Rail’s Apprentice of the Year in 2018 and has been an ambassador for Young Rail Professionals for the past three and a half years.

Chris said: “I have learnt so much at Bombardier – how trains, depots and railways operate, how to perform safety work, plan maintenance, carry out inspections, find faults and exchange components.

“CONEL has all the tools, equipment and materials you need. They have parts and components from real trains like bogies and engines to take apart and reassemble, and the tutors are always there if any help is needed.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has not derailed Chris’s appetite for learning and a career in rail engineering.

He said: “Learning in lockdown has been challenging. I would much rather be in college, but learning through classes on Microsoft Teams has been good and not too different.”

Chris is a huge advocate for apprenticeships as a way into work and the benefit of being employed by a company and earning money while gaining skills.

“Rail is a great industry to work in. Trains will always need to be maintained and kept running so the industry will always need new talent,” he said.

“Even if you have no previous engineering experience, you can learn the required skills on an apprenticeship. Unlike university you are being paid to learn, not paying to learn.

“I applied for my apprenticeship as soon as I left school and it was the best decision I ever made.”

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