OREANDA-NEWS. 140 extra apprenticeship places will be up for grabs next year, boosting the number of places on offer during the year to 300, with intakes planned for March and September.

Through the March 2017 recruitment, apprenticeship opportunities are expected to be available at Network Rail depots in Swansea, Port Tablot, Llanelli, Machynlleth, Llandudno, and Hereford.

The three-year, award winning scheme will offer people across Wales and the borders, as well as the rest of the UK, the chance to “earn while they learn”, gaining valuable work experience, transferable skills and recognised qualifications.

Recently relocating the Advanced Apprenticeship Scheme to a modern training and development facility near Coventry in the West Midlands, apprentices will spend the first five months of the three-year scheme at the centre, before moving to their local depots to learn through on-the-job training.

Apprentices are offered the chance to specialise in one of five areas: electrification and plant, overhead lines, signalling, telecoms or track, and work on Network Rail’s Railway Upgrade Plan to deliver a bigger, better railway for passengers.

Once at their local depots, apprentices will gain knowledge and vital skills from experienced team members, complemented by additional off-railway learning throughout the rest of their time on the scheme.

Network Rail group HR director, Ian Iceton said: “Network Rail has been committed to providing opportunities for young people to develop and progress into a rewarding career for more than ten years. Britain’s railways are one of this country’s success stories and apprentices are a vital part of our 36,000-strong team working to deliver our Railway Upgrade Plan to make our railway better and bigger.

“I urge anyone that has the determination, talent and enthusiasm to work in a role where you not only make a difference every single day but also contribute to building the railway for the future to join us by applying for the Advanced Apprenticeship scheme today.”

Edward Aston, 21, from Hereford, completed the Advanced Apprenticeship scheme in April 2016 in Hereford depot, specialising in track: “The scheme gave me a big insight into the railway as a whole and how each department interlinks to make things work.

“It was great to be given the chance to learn while on the job in the second and third years of the apprenticeship, with help from the experienced teams that have been doing the job day in day out, rather than being based in a classroom.”

Edward was named ‘3rd year track apprentice of the year’ at the Advanced Apprenticeship scheme graduation day in June 2016.

Sam Wilmott, 33, from Bridgend, completed the Advanced Apprenticeship scheme in May 2016 in Port Talbot depot, specialising in electrification and plant: “The Network Rail Advanced Apprenticeship Scheme offered the chance for me to gain qualifications, learn new skills and the opportunity to build a career from scratch.

“When I was looking for an apprenticeship, there were no other schemes that could offer what Network Rail could as far as qualifications and pay were concerned. I can definitely recommend the scheme to anyone thinking of applying.”

Last year, Network Rail received more than 4,000 applications for the Advanced Apprenticeship scheme. Apprentices join the 20,000-strong orange army of front line engineers and technicians who fix and maintain the rail infrastructure, enabling 1.6 billion rail journeys to be safely made every year. The majority of those coming through the apprentice scheme also progress their career with Network Rail, with 85% of those who started on the scheme in 2005, when it was first launched, still working for the organisation.