James Kenealey Vital Rail
Thirteen apprentices from Manchester and Liverpool have embarked on new careers in the rail industry as Salford-headquartered Vital Human Resources, part of the Morson Group, launches its latest apprenticeship programme.
More than 160 people applied for the 13 positions, which combine on the job training with academic learning as the apprentices work towards achieving a Level 2 NVQ in Rail Engineering Track Maintenance during the next 14 months.
During the first six weeks of the programme, the cohort will develop the basic skills and competencies required to build a successful career within the rail industry, combining classroom techniques with hands-on training delivered on a replica track environment at Vital’s headquarters. This first phase is delivered in partnership with Morson Training in preparation for the apprentices to embed themselves into gangs and gain first-hand experience and learning on a live railway as they are mentored alongside skilled operatives.
This latest cohort of apprentices builds on a robust training agenda within Vital Human Resources, which possesses an outstanding track record for delivering talent at all levels to the rail sector, with a number of its ex-apprentices continuing to climb the ranks today.
Gary Hardaker, executive director at Vital Human Resources, said:
“Creating jobs, especially for younger people, is an economic priority and it couldn’t be a more exciting time to enter the rail industry. Despite the backdrop of COVID-19, the sector is booming thanks to a significant programme of investment which has only been bolstered by the Government’s commitment to ‘build, build, build’. The infrastructure market is crucial to boosting the economy and upskilling the next generation of talent to ensure we have the pipeline of resources to deliver such important programmes of activity is a key part.
Our commitment to supporting the next generation is what makes our apprenticeship programme so successful. Some training schemes are simply a ‘box ticking’ exercise but we invest significantly in our people and have developed a comprehensive programme, taught by industry experts, which gives our apprentices the essential skills to get ahead in their careers and ensure they add true value to our operations and our clients’ programmes.
Our apprentices have the opportunity to work on some of the UK’s biggest and most exciting infrastructure programmes – such as HS2 – and we must attract and train skilled talent today to ensure we have the resource to deliver such complex programmes. It’s no secret that the rail industry is facing a shortage of talent and a rising age profile, which are just some of the reasons why programmes like HS2 now mandate strict skills, employment and education (SEE) outputs on their supply chain to ensure they are used as a vehicle to overcome industry-wide issues.
Developing the talent required to deliver the Government’s infrastructure agenda is part of our DNA and unlike some volume and low-skilled apprenticeship programmes, which are driven by commercial gain, we choose to keep our cohorts small so that we can ensure their training acts as a springboard into the sector and lays the foundation for the rest of their working life.”
Apprentice, Jordan Coleman, age 24, said:
“I was studying sports science at university but always knew I wanted to learn a trade with greater security and the rail sector appealed to me as I’m very hands-on. I had friends say I was too old to be an apprentice but thankfully I didn’t listen and carried on applying. I’m looking forward to what my future holds with Vital and creating a legacy that I can be proud of.”
Apprentice, Liam Eaton, age 18, said:
“I’ve dabbled in different construction trades and had been looking for a career where I could go far and make something of myself that can last a lifetime, and that’s what I’ve found. I’m looking forward to eventually qualifying, whilst earing a regular wage so I can afford my own place and buy a car.”
Vital Human Resources, together with the wider Morson Group, is delivering a robust equality, diversity and inclusion agenda that has been specifically designed to encourage greater representation within the industries it operates.
“We always recruit the best person for the job but we’re acutely aware that our rail apprenticeship programme continues to attract an all-male cohort. As a result, we are working with our peers, together with schools and colleges, to demonstrate first-hand the breadth of opportunities within the rail sector. It’s our mission to ensure our workforce is reflective of the vibrant communities around us and that the industry is viewed as an aspirational career path to all, regardless of gender, race, sexuality, economic background and more.”
The company has successfully adapted its recruitment and training processes and procedures, including the creation of a purpose-built COVID-secure classroom, to ensure it protects the health and wellbeing of its apprentices and the wider workforce.
Ged Mason OBE, CEO of the Morson Group, said:
“I’m pleased that, despite COVID-19, our apprenticeship programme continues to press ahead. Our dedication and commitment to assisting and creating jobs, across all sectors, will always remain part of our DNA and a core value of our business. The contribution that our apprentices make to our business is crucial in maintaining our ability to deliver the vital skills and resources to rail projects throughout the UK, and there is no more important time than now. What we do plays a critical role in developing and nurturing tomorrow’s talent today, as these people are our skills pipeline of the future.”