RFM’s ‘People, Skills and Diversity’ workstream supports the local delivery of the national Rail Sector Skills Delivery Plan.

In addition we are taking the lead to run some specific Midlands based pilot activities as part of the Rail Sector Deal.

We have 3 key areas of focus:

  • Encouraging young people to consider a career in rail and to study STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) subjects
  • Encouraging employers to support the recruitment of more apprentices and graduates
  • Facilitating employer access to ‘mature’ talent e.g. people leaving the armed forces

2018 was the Year of Engineering; a year long government backed campaign that aimed to raise the awareness of the breadth of careers available and to inspire more young people to consider engineering as a career. RFM was proud to support this important initiative through our industry leading iRail Schools Outreach Programme.

Encouraging People to Consider Rail as a Career : iRail Schools Outreach Programme

RFM manage the well established iRail Schools Outreach Programme on behalf of the industry. 2018 was the 9th year of iRail in the East Midlands bringing together teams of year 9 pupils from schools across Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire to take part in a day of industry visits and a rail related STEM ‘challenge’. 2018 also saw iRail launched in the West Midlands with a number of Birmingham schools taking part in a separate but similarly structured day. Prior to the two main iRail events schools were offered a rail related outreach day allowing us to showcase the industry to a much wider group of students. Thanks to the generous sponsorship of Porterbrook, the winners and runners up of the two iRail events were invited to compete for the title of iRail Grand Champion. This involved the schools undertaking a substantial rail related project and in December, following a rigorous judging process the team from Aston University Engineering Academy was crowned champions.

Work is already underway to start delivery of a significantly increased number of outreach days during 2019 and we are keen to encourage all members to get involved to support these by volunteering their  graduates, apprentices or other staff to help during the outreach days. We also need volunteers to help with the main iRail East Midlands day on 5th March.

Due to the large increase in the number of outreach days for 2019, these will be offered on a rolling basis throughout the school year. Confirmed participating schools in the East Midlands include the following, some of whom have multiple workshop days booked:

Allestree Woodlands

Anthony Gell School

Bemrose School

Bolsover School

Bramcote School

Chesterfield College

City of Derby Academy

Da Vinci Academy

Derby Moor School

John Taylor High School

Landau Forte College

Lees Brook School

Lyndon School

Merrill Academy

Murray Park School

Noel-Baker Academy

Nottingham University Samworth Academy

Rawlett School

Shirebrook Academy

Tibshelf School

Further details of schools in the West Midlands will be added when these are available.

To get involved please contact elaineclark@midlandsrail.co.uk


Recruiting Apprentices

RFM strongly encourages members to consider recruiting apprentices as this is now a key requirement in public procurement contracts.

Apprenticeships in England are continuing to evolve – both the content / way apprenticeships are delivered and the funding arrangements. New ‘Apprenticeship Standards’ are being introduced, developed by groups of employers, these new standards are designed to deliver more appropriate skills and knowledge required by today’s workforce. A number of new standards are available that might be relevant to members; from rail engineering and manufacturing to professional support services such as business administration and IT to customer service and marketing. The apprenticeship standards set out what the apprentice needs to know (the theory or academic knowledge required) and the competences (practical skills) required for the job.

The link below shows all current rail apprenticeship standards (current at December 2017)

Rail Apprenticeship Standards Updated MO 1217

In order to deliver the apprenticeship employers usually work with either Further Education (FE) colleges or other private sector training providers. The apprentice attends college/formal training provider on either a day or block release basis to complete the academic part of their apprenticeship. They may also gain some practical skills in a safe ‘away from work’ environment. The remainder of their time is spent working with the employer learning in a structured way on the job.

Apprentices should normally be employed. Employers are free to set their own pay rates providing these comply with minimum wage legislation.

Apprenticeships are all assigned ‘levels’ and the majority, but not all, include one or two formal qualifications that the individual must attain to complete their apprenticeship.  In England these levels reflect the English education system and can loosely be regarded as:

Level 2 – operative / semi skilled person

Level 3 – skilled / technician

Level 4 – advanced technician (roughly equivalent to someone studying for HNC)

Level 5/6 – HND and degree level apprenticeship

Level 7 – Masters level apprenticeship

Durations vary with level 2 apprenticeships usually taking 12-18 months to complete and level 3 apprenticeship 3-4 years. Higher levels will depend on the background and previous qualifications/experience of the individual. The minimum duration for an apprenticeship is 12 months.

From April 2017, larger companies have to pay an apprenticeship levy (based on a % of their pay bill) whilst smaller companies may be eligible to claim more funding support than previously. RFM has a number of relationships with colleges and universities to support our members find the right apprenticeships; including higher level and degree/graduate apprenticeships.

Most training providers and colleges will help employers with the recruitment of an apprentice. This might include advertising the opportunity and shortlisting applications. The National Skills Academy for Rail (NSAR) has also recently launched a new service called NSAR Connect which helps signpost unsuccessful good quality candidates from oversubscribed rail schemes (such as Network Rail and Bombardier) to supply chain companies.

RFM has been working closely with Derby College to establish a Rail Skills and Employment Academy. The academy brings together a number of employers to oversee the curriculum delivered both for apprentices and fulltime students interested in rail and that might be interested in an apprenticeship in the future.  This employer Advisory Board is chaired by Rachel Turner of East Midlands Trains. Employers have recently interviewed students from the 2018 academic year intake who are looking to join the rail skills and employment academy. These students will be offered specialist lectures and visits and possibly a rail sector employee as a mentor.

If you want to find out more about apprenticeships or funding, RFM are here to help. We can also provide more detail about what apprenticeship standards are available that might be suitable for your business.

The TUC has also produced an apprenticeship toolkit, this is primarily aimed at union representatives but is also a useful reference for employers generally.

Access to Mature Talent

Late in 2016 RFM organised a ‘Careers in Rail Day’ in conjunction with the Career Transition Partnership (CTP). CTP exists to help armed forces leavers make the transition to civilian life. This was a hugely successful event attended by 20 member companies and attracting well over 100 delegates from across all ranks and services. Delegates heard first hand about jobs in the industry from people who had made the transition previously they then had ample time to meet and network with prospective employers. RFM will look to offer similar events in future for our members.


Flexible Learning Fund Digital Engineers Academy

The Partners

Collab Group is a forward thinking membership organisation representing 37 leading Colleges and College Groups who collaborate, at a local and national level, with a wide range of stakeholders.Birmingham Metropolitan College is a further education college with 10 campuses distributed within Birmingham, England. Our bid submission to create innovative learning solutions for Digital Engineering has been awarded a contract by the DfE. BMET is a member of the Collab Group who will manage the project and, together with BMET, will work in collaboration Vinci and other key Collab Group Colleges to ensure project success.
VINCI, is a French concessions and construction company founded in 1899. It employs over 194,000 people, operates in more than 100 countries and is the largest construction company in the world by revenue.

Key Information

  • The Contract lead is Birmingham Metropolitan College 
  • Supporting Collab Group Colleges are:

• Bridgwater & Taunton College

• Derby College

• Middlesbrough College

• Capital City College Group (CCCG) 

  • Collab Group will project manage 
  • Lead Employer partner is Vinci Plc 

Supporting Employers & Stakeholders include:
Sir Robert McAlpine, Tarmac, Balfour Beatty, BAM Nuttall, Rail Forum Midlands, NSAR, Laing O’Rourke, One Awards, Heart of the South West LEP, Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP, NOCN Pearson.

Contract Lead: Paula Cresswell (BMET) paula.cresswell@bmet.ac.uk
Project Manager & Employer Engagement Lead: Steve Bannister (Collab Group) steve.bannister@Collabgroup.co.uk
Timeframe: June 2018-March 2019

Employers wishing to progress colleagues through the programme, get involved, recruit learner beneficiaries from the programme, or to be kept abreast of developments are please to contact: Steve Bannister Steve.bannister@collabgroup.co.uk 07903 029 620

Further information can be found on the following link: FLFund- Digital Engineers- high-level-summary.