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From rail administration assistant to national group training manager

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Rebekah Valero-Lee Apprenticeships

In the final instalment of our National Apprenticeship Week profiles, we speak to national group training manager, Matt Leavis, who works for Morson Group’s special training division, Morson Vital Training. Matt manages the rail apprentice training in Salford, Greater Manchester, and has more than 14 years’ experience in the UK rail industry.

Words: Jennifer Morris

When Matt took a weekend job as an administration assistant in the rail industry, he was 17 years old. By the time he was 18, he had attained his PTS card, and was out on the tracks at weekends supporting the engineers on the night shift.

Matt’s professional journey is underpinned by determination, hard work and opportunity. Finding he liked the hands-on work of the rail industry, he soon excelled from track labourer, being given more responsibility before taking on a role with Network Rail as a welding assistant.

“By the age of 21 I was a fully qualified welder, and one of the youngest with network Rail at the time,” he says, “I loved everything about welding, and was always hungry for the next qualification – once I had honed my skills doing one thing, I was eager to evolve and learn a different skill set.

“I found myself asking for more training and qualifications, which ultimately helped me progress in my career.”

Then, a couple of years later, Matt was asked if he had ever considered becoming a trainer. He says: “I had never considered this before – I thought being a trainer was for an older generation, when you couldn’t work on the track any more. Not long after I was diagnosed with a condition that meant physical labour wasn’t possible any more.

“That’s when I revisited the training aspect – I could use the skills I had acquired in the rail industry and apply them to a new career.”

Matt now heads up Morson Vital Training (MVT), which offers training and apprenticeships to all levels of seniority in the rail industry. He is also about to start his very first apprenticeship himself. “I hope to complete my ILM qualification in September, and then straight after that I would like to start my degree and then a Masters. All the learning I do for myself is all undertaken out of working hours. It’s a big challenge but I can see the benefits already.”

Matt says he can relate to the apprentices who walk through MVT’s doors. “I was never academic at school – I was always good with my hands though. Finding a career I was interested in meant that I was eager to learn more despite not being very academic. We measure our apprentices on their ability in the industry for the role they are going into. It is important that they complete the academic side of things as part of their training because it gives them a deeper understanding of why and how things work.”

Matt continues: “I believe that an apprenticeship can turn someone’s life around. We have introduced a six week skills based academy – it’s a challenge to deliver, but the apprenticeship may just have sent them off on a path to a brighter future – if it makes a difference then we’ve done something really good.

“The opportunities are there for the people that are willing to look for them. If you work hard then you will be supported and you will progress. You’ll reach your potential – and engineering is a great industry for that.”