ENGINEERING maintenance students have discovered a fast track to employment after completing their training at the birthplace of passenger railways.
Nine students have become the first to successfully complete an NVQ L2 in railway engineering track maintenance, a new course delivered by Darlington College and Redstone Training, at Locomotion, in Shildon.
The intensive training course will ensure that the track workers will stay safe in one of the most hazardous environments in the country where trains operate up to 125mph, 225mph when HS2 comes on line.
For some of the students the course has opened up opportunities to pursue a career for the first time while others have welcomed a change of direction.
The first cohort spent weeks studying every aspect of track maintenance and safety. This included the structure of the railway, from its sub-formation and drainage to the track and 25,000V overhead power lines. They have all been offered jobs by Network Rail contractor Vital Rail.
The students also helped construct a section of line at Locomotion, the National Railway Museum’s site at Shildon, the place where the world’s first steam-powered public railway sprang to life in 1825.
Redstone’s head of delivery Leam Brennan said: “They have all stuck at it and done very well. This is a big achievement for them which opens up a host of opportunities in the railway industry.”
Darlington College curriculum manager Lesley Anderson said: “This has proved to be an excellent collaboration with Redstone, the college and Locomotion and we are looking forward to the next cohort starting very soon. It has not only provided the students with jobs but meaningful careers which they can enjoy all their working lives.”
Vital Human Resources Ltd labour manager Danny West said: “I am now looking forward to strengthening my current workforce with the operatives off this course. They have each presented themselves remarkably well and I now look forward to integrating them into the industry.”
Head of Locomotion Sarah Price added: “This is a fantastic partnership opportunity. We call Shildon the first railway town, where in 1825 Locomotion No1 set off and changed the world. The students have been working just yards from the oldest surviving railway building in the world and that environment has proved to be truly inspiring.”
For Rachael Appleby the experience has been life-changing. A volunteer at Locomotion for the past four years she has now secured her first proper job aged 29. “Every day was different,” said Rachael, who is a qualified shunter, of Bishop Auckland.
“It’s a fantastic course and I would recommend it to other people. I was the only girl but the other students were great, we worked as a team and had each other’s backs. You learn such a lot and make new friends. I have always loved trains but never thought I would end up working on the tracks. It is amazing getting a job at the end of the course and I am really excited.”
Mark Brooks, of Shildon, claims the course was a chance to change career at the age of 61 and finally follow in the footsteps of his granddad who used to be at Shildon Works.
“I worked in catering for 20 years and as a scaffolder on construction sites,” he said. “The course has been fantastic, one of the best I have ever been on and the tutors are great. It has given me extra knowledge and I have learnt so many new things. I’m heading off to work on the tracks at Bristol and have also been offered work on HS2 – not bad for a 61-year-old.”
Josh Holdsworth also studied L2 electrical installation and L2 catering at Darlington College but saw his career hopes dashed by the pandemic. He said: “This course has been something different and been really good. I’ll be able to use it to better myself.”
For more information on opportunities at Darlington College and Redstone visit www.darlington.ac.uk and www.redstonetraining.co.uk respectively and www.locomotion.org.uk/home for further details about Locomotion.