UK freight engages with Rail Week for the next generation engineers

Despite the pandemic, UK rail freight operators are finding ways to support the Rail Week initiative, aimed at encouraging school children to consider careers in the industry. HS2, DB Cargo, Freightliner and the Rail Delivery Group are among the participants. The organisers of the event, the professional networking association Young Rail Professionals, are holding this year’s event digitally, which has exercised the ingenuity of organisations taking part.

With virtual depot tours, webinars, downloadable activities, engineering insights, open question sessions, games and educational videos, the rail freight sector has been hard at work imagining ways to engage with school children and young people. The pan-industry collaboration is aimed at bridging the rail sector’s skills gap and inspiring the next generation of rail and engineering professionals. With a broad remit to serve children, young people, parents, teachers and careers advisors, there is plenty to cover in the next seven days.

Virtual visits and online learning

While physical visits are off-limits right now, Freightliner is headlining their participation with a virtual tour of their Leeds Depot on Tuesday, and a follow up visit to Crewe on Thursday. The events will give everyone from school children to parents and teachers an overview of day-to-day operations inside a working freight depot. The tours will be in part hosted by Freightliner apprentices, who’ll show off the variety of their roles within the depots. The participation of young professionals is designed to relate more closely to school-leavers, and to humanise the scale of the depot works.

Freightliner is virtually welcoming visitors to their depots for Rail Week (Freightliner)

With a whole week of online events, firs-time participants DB Cargo UK are going full throttle to get behind the initiative. “We really want to give people a taste of what a career in rail freight can offer”, said Dr Amy Pressland, their head of learning and development. “This is a first for DB Cargo UK, and whether you’re still at school and deciding what path to take or you’ve just left full time education, there really is something for everyone.”

The future features in the programme

With an eye to the future, as befits their project, HS2 is on the panel of judges for a competition for Rail Week. In association with We Are Rail Fans, an international website and organisation for the entire rail community, they are inviting young people to design the sustainable train of the future.

Meanwhile, the UK infrastructure management agency, Network Rail is putting up a rail engineer every day, to showcase the diverse career opportunities within the organisation and the industry at large. With a future programme of decarbonisation and enhancements already announced, the agency is offering cutting-edge opportunities for young people considering the industry as their path.

Opportunities all over the UK

Organisers and participants are especially keen to address skill shortages across the whole science, technology, engineering and maths disciplines, and want to encourage more young people into STEM studies, while making sure the railway is an attractive career choice. An engineering team at work in the Scottish Highlands, at Aviemore, features in our headline emphasising the message that the railway offers careers in all parts of the UK.

From the Scottish Highlands to the terminals of London, Rail Week showcases future careers for young engineers all over the UK (Rail Week and Network Rail images)

While there remains uncertainty in the economy in general, government sources are backing the railways to play a long-term part in the recovery of the UK. STEM choices may be out of fashion right now, but there seems little doubt that they will be the catwalk careers of the future. Events like Rail Week could provide the model first step for many of the next generation of skilled professionals.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

Add your comment

characters remaining.

Log in through one of the following social media partners to comment.