RFEM’s ‘People and Skills’ workstream supports the local delivery of the national Rail Sector Skills Delivery Plan.  We have 3 key areas of focus:

  • Encouraging young people to consider a career in rail
  • Encouraging employers to support the recruitment of more apprentices and graduates
  • Facilitating employer access to ‘mature’ talent e.g. people leaving the armed forces

Encouraging People to Consider Rail as a Career

In previous years a number of companies have undertaken some form of education outreach activity e.g. visits to schools to talk about rail, hosting site visits and so on. This activity has, in the main, been fragmented and reactive. Working with members, RFEM is working on a co-ordinated plan of education outreach activity for 2017 and through to the end of the academic year (July 2018) including schools, colleges and universities. A number of member companies have volunteered or ‘pledged’  between 1 and 30 days of support to help deliver this programme. Larger companies will continue to run their own schools programmes but with linkage to the RFEM programme. All member companies are welcome to get involved by pledging support. Not only is this important to help raise our profile as an industry it is also good business sense as it is helping secure our future talent. In addition, clients now expect their suppliers to be involved in some form of education activity and by getting involved with our programme member’s can genuinely claim to be working collaboratively to deliver a significant outreach programme.

So far the following companies have collectively pledged well over 100 days and a number of additional companies are expected to join the scheme shortly:

Atkins                                       Bridgeway Consulting                    CoMech Metrology

EliteKL                                      East Midlands Trains                      HS2

ISS Labour                               Porterbrook Leasing                        Resonate

Ricardo                                     Signal House Group                        SNC Lavalin

Structural Fabrications         Tarmac                                               Train FX


Recruiting Apprentices

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

Apprenticeships in England are changing – 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.

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. RFEM 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.

RFEM 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 Simon Higgens, CEO of ISS Labour. The academy has now recruited its first intake of engineering students and will be recruiting students from other disciplines potentially including IT, business management, finance, sales and marketing and more in the Autumn of 2017.

If you want to find out more about apprenticeships or funding RFEM 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 RFEM 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. RFEM will look to offer similar events in future for our members.