Keep calm and carry on learning – training adapts to the pandemic

Every day is a school day in rail freight. DB Cargo UK is not alone among freight operators in understanding the importance of training for the next generation. The Doncaster-based company has pivoted its career-long training regime to take advantage of modern technology and overcome the challenges of the coronavirus crisis. With a flexible training and learning regime delivered by The Apprenticeship College, and the willingness of DB’s highly motivated team, whether new to the industry or established professionals, they’re still able to pass with flying colours.

There are very few industries that are as ‘hands on’ as the rail freight sector. In this world, where respect for safety sits alongside understanding the business inside out, training is never taken lightly. That has proved challenging for operators like DB, coming to terms with training for the present while planning for the future. Fortunately, the concept of distance learning is well established in the UK. Ever since the the 1970s ‘Open University’ hit late night tv screens, the idea of formal learning without leaving your armchair has been part of the fabric of British society.

It’s not all talk and chalk

With her own office out of bounds most of the time, Kerrie Talbot has been fulfilling her role as apprenticeship and development manager with DB Cargo UK from her armchair too, just like her colleague learners. “Normally training is face to face, but it’s not all talk and chalk. The trainers offer a blended learning approach. There are these fantastic people like Clare Bailey who offer a wonderful range of experience and can really bring training to life.”

Clare Bailey, well known to British TV viewers, brings her supply chain and logistics experience to the rail industry.

“The rail industry is rapidly changing”, says Clare Bailey, an associate trainer who delivers the Supply Chain Masterclass for the Level 3 Apprenticeship in Supply Chain Practitioner for The Apprenticeship College, the provider for DB Cargo UK. Her background in senior leadership and business change across retail, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) and consumer packaged goods supply chains (CPG), bringing together experience in the transport, distribution and logistics sectors, coupled with specific experience in the rail sector, provides her students with a well matched platform for their careers. “This enthusiasm for change is reflected in the attention of the learners”, she says. “There’s a realisation that the rail freight business thrives on efficiency and professionalism. It’s about far more than motive power and moving rolling stock. It’s about efficiency in matching supply and demand, keeping promises to customers by keeping promises to colleagues. Getting those concepts over in a classroom is one thing, getting them over in a live-virtual setting takes some adaptation, but that’s what the modern railway is all about – adaptation to new situations and concepts.”

Rail freight is a growing industry

While adapting to the pandemic has been a steep learning curve for everyone involved, there is agreement that lessons have been learnt, and many of them translate into new work practices. Operators agree that the future will see more autonomy for their teams, who will necessarily be working on their own initiative far more than in the past. Finding a training provider that is just as adaptable and open to new working practices is just as important. At DB Cargo UK, Kerrie Talbot was looking for just that adaptability. “The Apprenticeship College was one of the first providers to be ready to go online, and that was very important for us. We wanted to keep our training and development running with as little change and disruption as possible. It’s really helped that they were able to redefine their delivery so quickly. They’ve even recorded many of their workshops, so our apprentices can really engage with the training and return to that point in their learning at any time.”

Working for a well trained future. Tilly Allen at The Apprenticeship College and Kerrie Talbot at DB Cargo UK collaborate to keep vital learning running, regardless of current circumstances

Outside the specialism, courses like Supply Chain Practitioner may seem difficult to grasp, but for Tilly Allen, the sales director at The Apprenticeship College, courses like this are the reason the college are engaged with the sector. “Rail Freight is one industry that is growing in these unusual times”, she says. “It is great to be offering substantial training that helps to deliver on the skills needed to keep this vital industry working efficiently and effectively.”

Rail freight sector provides good candidates

Tilly Allen remains impressed with the standard that comes from the sector. “Individuals that join from this sector are always of high quality and keen to develop their capabilities”, she says. “DB Cargo has been a valued client of ours for a while and we are really pleased to be able to offer development in this area. Our trainers are experts in their field and have experience working in the sector themselves which makes a big difference to our learners and clients.”

Never too young to start, never too old to learn. Personal development is a career long commitment at DB Cargo UK.

Learners back up her enthusiasm. Among the DB Cargo team, virtually attending Clare Bailey’s supply chain masterclass, there’s a levity that goes hand in hand with attention. “I’m impressed with how well the class responds to the live-virtual learning situation”, she says. “Overcoming the technological challenge takes a toll on everyone’s energy, but there’s a real determination to make it through, and that makes it achievable for all of us.”

Rail retail project

Bailey is immersed in the rail industry right now, with a project in hand for retailers in station settings, an equally challenging arena, given the current climate of restrictions to leisure and travel. “In a way, it’s about bringing the freight sector’s rigorous attention to detail and concern for safety to retailers and the travelling public. In that sense, the rail freight industry has something to share with the passenger sector.”

With some enthusiasm, good training, and a willingness to learn, there’s a good chance that everyone will make it through the current situation. At the other end, we may all learn a lot, and even come through with flying colours.

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.