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Network Rail's apprentice route to a degree

Many young women are missing out on a career in engineering because traditional university routes are closed to them because of subject choices they made pre-GCSE, according to Network Rail. A Network Rail apprenticeship can reopen those academic doors, with the company funding around 40 apprentices a year to further their education with a part-time HNC in engineering. The best are then supported to do foundation degrees, undergraduate degrees and reach chartered engineering status.

Today, the start of National Apprenticeship Week, the company is urging young women who are interested in a career in engineering to apply for its advanced apprenticeship scheme for 2012 – with 200 places up for grabs across Britain. Applicants can visit a new Facebook page www.facebook.com/ontrack with videos, profiles and content managed by current apprentices who can respond directly to any enquiries and showcase the opportunities on offer.

www.facebook.com/ontrack - Network Rail

Official figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that women get better grades at university than men with 66% achieving a first or 2:1 compared to 60% of men. However only 15% of people taking engineering or technology undergraduate degrees are women.

A focus group with women on the Network Rail scheme revealed that recognised qualifications and the opportunity for further training and development were one of the main reasons they were attracted to joining the company.

Commenting on the new campaign, Network Rail head of resourcing Adrian Thomas said: “We recruit smart and ambitious women and men through our apprenticeship scheme who we know if supported can go on to higher academic achievement. As a growing sector, rail needs to recruit and retain top quality engineers for the future.

“Our recruitment experience tells us that many young people find the route to higher education in engineering closed because of their GCSE choices, which has a knock on effect to A level and degree options. By reopening the academic doors to those who have not taken the traditional route, we hope to attract more talented women to apply and nurture that engineering expertise that will make our business stronger, more successful and better value for the British public.”


Former apprentice now maintenance team leader in Rugby, Camilla Banner, 24, is studying for the HNC in Engineering through Network Rail. she said: “At school it was as if there were only two options – do A levels or go to college and then onto university, but I didn’t really want to do either, particularly if I was going to get into a huge amount of debt. An apprenticeship appealed so much more and earning whilst learning was a real motivation.

The HNC has been great and I want to go further and do the foundation degree and a degree in engineering – I don’t want to stop here. I get asked if I had to go back would I change what’s happened, and I say no – I’d definitely do the apprenticeship again.”


Camilla Banner
Former apprentice now , technical officer, Appleby depot, Cumbria, Karis Brown, 23, is studying for the HNC in Engineering through Network Rail. She said:
“From being a young girl I knew I wanted to work in engineering but never fancied going to university so I applied for the apprenticeship. It sounded perfect; a year away from home, a chance to make new friends and start an exciting career with no expensive university fees.

“After completing my apprenticeship and spending a couple of years working in the technical office, I saw the HNC advertised and decided it was time for another challenge and hopefully progress even further in my career. So far the HNC has been good, I feel I have learnt quite a bit and enjoy the mix of working and being off at university for a couple of weeks every few months. Going to university is a mixture of fun and hard work; there is a big commitment to doing course work and exam revision along with as a full time job, but I am enjoying getting the benefit of student prices whilst earning a full time wage.

“I sometimes get comments asking how I can do a man’s job - but it’s not. The guys are always offering to carry things for me and look surprised when I can do it for myself. The uniform isn’t ideal but that’s the only down side to my job. I think there are great opportunities as a woman in the engineering industry as it becomes more diverse and develops.”


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