On track for your future

From engineering to IT, the rail industry offers a varied and well-structured career
Click to follow
The Independent Online

When the Rocket first chugged off the Stephenson company's Newcastle production lines in 1829, it heralded a transformation of society. Victorian Britain's foundations were built on the railways, with remote areas linked to big towns for the first time. The railways and the age of steam epitomised everything that was exciting and forward-thinking about the 19th century. Fast forward to the 21st century, and much of that excitement has evaporated. Under-funding, overcrowding and lack of modernisation has seen excitement about railways give way to a grim resignation and grumbling among the country's long-suffering rail passengers.

When the Rocket first chugged off the Stephenson company's Newcastle production lines in 1829, it heralded a transformation of society. Victorian Britain's foundations were built on the railways, with remote areas linked to big towns for the first time. The railways and the age of steam epitomised everything that was exciting and forward-thinking about the 19th century. Fast forward to the 21st century, and much of that excitement has evaporated. Under-funding, overcrowding and lack of modernisation has seen excitement about railways give way to a grim resignation and grumbling among the country's long-suffering rail passengers.

"The public perception of the rail industry isn't always accurate," says Ian Livsey, managing director of The Centre for Rail Skills, an organisation that promotes skills development and careers in the rail industry. "The industry is much more hi-tech than people imagine and there is a plethora of good career opportunities."

Graduates can gain management training and experience in a diverse range of roles. The most obvious is engineering, but opportunities are also available in communications, IT, finance, human resources and customer services - to name just a few. Further information can be found at www.careersinrail.org, the Centre for Rail Skills' website dedicated to career opportunities in the industry.

Network Rail, an engineering company formed to revitalise Britain's railways, is keen to recruit graduates from a range of disciplines for business management and engineering roles. Responsible for the maintenance, renewal and enhancement of the rail infrastructure, over the next five years the company has some £26bn to invest in revitalising our railways - tracks, tunnels, bridges, embankments and signalling. To do this, Network Rail needs to recruit top-quality graduates. Having increased their graduate intake to more than 100, the company hopes to recruit another 70 graduates in September 2005. The salary is competitive: approximately £19,500 plus benefits. For details of careers at Network Rail, visit www.networkrail.co.uk/careers.

The Go-ahead Group operates transport services under several brand names, including Southern and Thameslink train services. Graduates from all disciplines can apply for the group's 18-month training programme that covers all aspects of operations management. Trainees spend six months in each of the three divisions: bus, rail and aviation support services management. There is also the chance to begin a formal Certificate in Management Studies (CMS) course, which offers training in the wider aspects of management as well as the chance to continue with a Diploma in Management Studies. Salaries are competitive and graduates can expect to start on at least £18,000 a year.

"The variety of training and experience I gained was great," says Pedro Page, who joined the Go-ahead graduate scheme in 2002. "The formal training was good too, with courses on issues as diverse as media relations and disability awareness. The Certificate in Management Studies has boosted my managerial skills in areas like decision-making, motivation, teamwork, and project management." For more information about graduate careers at the Go-ahead group, visit: www.go-ahead.com.

Since starting commercial services almost 10 years ago, Eurostar has become firmly established as the market leader for cross-Channel travel services, providing the only train link from London, to Paris and Brussels. By the company's birthday on 14 November, Eurostar will have carried around 59 million people - nearly the entire population of the United Kingdom. The company employs around 1,300 people and retention rates are high. Graduates with degrees in electrical and mechanical engineering can join the Monitored Professional Development Scheme, a two- year programme that offers various placements to help them meet the competency requirements of the professional institutions they are aligned to.

There are also opportunities to travel, as Luis Garcia Araguas, who has recently completed the programme, found out. "While taking part in the Graduate Programme, you get the chance to work in different engineering disciplines within diverse departments and teams, but doing it in an international company such as Eurostar means it takes on another dimension."

Engineering trainees can expect to earn around £20,000, rising to upwards of £23,000 on graduation. On completion of the programme, engineering graduates can expect to take a first appointment as a technical engineer or team technician to gain the appropriate production and procedural knowledge and experience in-line management, project management and technical support in a variety of engineering fields.

While there isn't a formal graduate programme for non-engineering specialists, there are ample opportunities for well-qualified graduates across a wide range of disciplines, such as sales and marketing, corporate communications, finance, procurement, human resources and law. To find out more about working for Eurostar, visit www.eurostar.com.

Comments