An Apprenticeship with TPE

Monday 04th March 2019

Apprenticeships are a great way of getting into the rail industry and over the course of our current franchise, TransPennine Express are committed to taking on a total of 36 apprentices.

In the not too distant future, we will be looking for our latest intake of apprentices, so keep your eyes peeled in the coming weeks. Anyway, what better way of kicking off National Apprenticeship Week than by asking current and former apprentices for their advice and some of their experiences too.

Caitlin Gent – Higher Fleet Apprentice
Caitlin Gent

What made you want to join TPE as an apprentice?

TPE is investing £500 million into new trains and routes with a vision to transform the franchise. This was really encouraging when I was searching for an apprenticeship because I was looking for a pathway that could offer opportunities, and I felt that TPE’s vision and investment could offer me that.

What does your role involve?

The structure of my apprenticeship gives me a varied role; I carry out placements around the business and around the industry, enabling me to work with other companies within the railway sector.

My role varies from working in the office to working on a depot and travelling on the railway network, this approach allows me to adapt to different working environments and broadens my knowledge as this gives me an appreciation of how each section integrates together.

In the office I work alongside the Fleet Engineers, where we overlook the performance of the fleets and investigate technical faults that have had a large impact on the reliability of the fleet.

Working on the depot is a “hands on” placement where I will carry out maintenance on the rolling stock and achieve a detailed understanding of how the rolling stock works, therefore improving my technical knowledge and technical skill.

Working on the network allows me to demonstrate my technical knowledge and skills under pressure. Diagnosing faults in service can be a demanding role as passengers are on board and can become frustrated if the fault is affecting their experience or causing a delay to the service.

What do you love most about your job?

I love how varied and challenging my role is; I am always learning. I love that I am challenged often, this pushes me to work hard and takes me out of my comfort zone, and for that I am grateful. The change and advancement of technology and engineering creates opportunities for young people like me to make a difference and I think it is empowering. Apprenticeships allow young people like me to make a difference, to influence an aging industry – that is why I love my job.

What have you learnt whilst doing your apprenticeship with TPE?

The nature of my apprenticeship allows me to carry out work placements with other companies within the rail sector. This is an incredibly interesting experience as I gain an appreciation of multiple businesses—understanding what they do, the challenges they face and the impact that they have on our company. This really highlights to me the importance of stakeholder engagement and business relationships.

My hands-on placements focus on carrying out maintenance and in-service repairs on our current two fleets of trains, helping me to develop my technical skills.

My office-based placements help develop my technical knowledge and understanding of processes such as writing Engineering Changes, Maintenance Control Briefs and appreciating the commercial and legal aspects of a TOC engineering function.

This apprenticeship has given me the opportunity to present at two Women In Rail events, this has taken me beyond my comfort zone and was an experience I will never forget. I feel that this apprenticeship is always challenging me, and personal development is consistent throughout.

David Walker – Fleet Commercial Manager
David Walker

What made you want to join the rail industry as an apprentice? 

From an early age I had always been interested in fixing things, to the that I used to turn my pedal tractor over and pretend that I was fettling the engine on it!  What actually crystallised the apprenticeship route for me was a trip to Toton depot open day with my father (also a life-long railway man) when I saw lines of locomotives with their engine covers open and I knew that I wanted to be part of the organisation that was responsible for maintenance and repair of the fleet. 

What did you learn whilst doing your apprenticeship in the rail industry?   

I learned a trade; that of dual trained fitter/electrician.  I also learned a great deal about myself as well: how to behave in the workplace; how to meet and work with people that I didn’t know; how to overcome obstacles and personal resilience when faced with challenges.  I was lucky enough to secure an apprenticeship with British Rail at Longsight depot which provided me with experiences in repair and maintenance of electric trains, diesel trains, coaching stock, plant and machinery, overhead lines and power distribution.

What do you love most about your job? 

I love the variety of my role, the fact that I can be dealing with multi-million-pound rolling stock negotiations one day, then segue into safety tours where I’m engaging with frontline colleagues and then onto working with my team on development and day-to-day delivery of the fleet.  Making all of this so enjoyable are people, both internal and external to the business.  I have met some amazing colleagues over the years, some of whom have become true friends.

What does your current role involve? 

As Fleet Commercial Manager I am responsible for the leasing and maintenance contracts TPE has with its suppliers.  I am also look after the financial side of Fleet’s operation by making sure that invoices are correct and paid on time.  A relatively recent development has been my line management our Fleet Higher Apprentice which has provided me with an exciting new challenge in terms of creating an modern day apprenticeship relevant to a train operating company.  Of course, I don’t do this on my own and I have a small but amazing team of people working for me delivering our responsibilities.

What advice can you give for budding apprentices that want to join the rail industry? 

Research your desired role really well, demonstrate your passion for the industry, be prepared for the unexpected and, in particular, always be open to new challenges.  The railway offers apprentices an unrivalled opportunity to join a growing and fast-moving industry which uses state of the art technology and it can form the basis of a life-long career.  Having started as an apprentice, I am now a senior manager and I am really proud of my roots on the shop floor which have given me a strong platform to progress my own career.

Dominic Ellis
Dom Ellis

What made you want to join TPE as an apprentice?

I knew I didn't want to go to university, but I wanted to keep developing my skills. The apprenticeship programme TPE offer excited me. It looked like it was a unique opportunity to develop in a fast-moving industry.

What did you learn whilst doing your apprenticeship with TPE?

On the apprenticeship I got an appreciation of the different departments who all work alongside each other to provide the service the customer receives. I spent the majority of my time with the Resources team learning how Drivers and Conductors are rostered.

What was your favourite thing about your apprenticeship?

The best part of the apprenticeship for me was all the variety of experiences I got. I had opportunities to see so many different things, which opened my eyes to different careers on the railway 

What does your current role involve?

As a Resource Deployment Planner I'm responsible for ensuring all our services have a Driver and Conductor, as well as managing leave and release for training. I love dealing with the challenge of the continuous change in availability of train crew and the people I get to work with.

What advice can you give for apprentices joining the rail industry?
Keep an open mind and take every opportunity you get!

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