To coincide with National Apprenticeship Week (6-10 March) and International Women’s Day (8 March) Network Rail will be working directly with schools as part of a new engagement programme to encourage more young people, women in particular, to consider STEM subjects and inspire them about the different types of careers available across the rail industry. The organisation has also set itself a new target to increase its take-up of female employees across the business to 20 percent by 2020.
Commenting, Loraine Martins, Network Rail’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion, said: “There is still a wide perception that engineering jobs are for ‘boys only’. Many of the outdated stereotypes about what makes certain career choices male or female continue to be engrained within some children from a really young age, often passed down through parents, families and teachers.
“Our own research has shown that girls as young as seven believe that engineering is not an option for them, which is why we need to do everything we can to educate children, parents and teachers about the vast array of jobs within the sector. Attracting and retaining a diverse mix of talent is essential not only for our business, but also for the UK economy as a whole.”
Helen Samuels is Network Rail’s Engineering Director. Her role is to lead the 2,000 engineers working in the projects team to deliver a five year, £25 billion investment in new infrastructure.
Helen added: “Engineering is basically problem-solving. Sometimes it's maths, but sometimes it's helping people to understand what you are doing and why, or figuring out how to build something for less money. Diverse teams are important for this, and having a mixture of skills sets in these problem-solving situations is key.
“One of the most common myths is that engineering is a 'dirty' profession. Many engineering roles are based either part-time or full-time in an office environment, although I really enjoy the cut and thrust of site work.”
As well as going into schools, Network Rail is also looking to recruit apprentices to help deliver its Railway Upgrade Plan to make the railway bigger and better for Britain for years to come. The company is calling out for the next generation of engineers who want to learn on the job and build a career in engineering. Network Rail’s apprentices are guaranteed a job on successful completion of the three year course. The retention rate of those coming through the apprenticeship scheme is around 75% - much higher than the national average for engineering (55%).
Emma Taylor, who joined Network Rail as an apprentice, is now a National Aerial Survey Specialist, which means she is responsible for operating the specialist camera equipment which is mounted onto the Network Rail surveillance helicopter.
Emma added: “I work all over the country so no day is ever the same. The aircraft surveys the whole of the rail network from above and looks for any potential faults with the equipment along the infrastructure. My job is to spot flaws before a failure occurs as this helps to keep the network running safely and smoothly.
“The best part of my job is the travel. I’ve travelled across the entire country now and have seen it all from above, sometimes I have to pinch myself because it is so breath-taking. I also get to meet lots of different people which is so interesting, including many of our engineers who come up in the helicopter with us.”
Network Rail staff will be going into schools across the country to deliver educational sessions on careers in the STEM sector from March 3 2017. The organisation is also looking to recruit 150 apprentices across the country.
As one of Britain’s biggest employers, Network Rail recognises it has a role to play in inspiring future generations about careers in the engineering sector. The pipeline of female talent entering the sector is low which WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) say is because 50,000 girls are turning away from an education in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) every year.