Managing change through training and development
A Network Rail case study

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Page 3: Training

Network Rail 17 Image 11To maintain the quality of staff, Network Rail has put major investment into improving the knowledge and skills of its workforce. It operates a ‘learning for life’ policy and staff are expected to continue learning throughout their careers.

Training is usually defined as being job-related. It provides staff with new or improved skills so that they can carry out a role or task better. Training staff brings a number of benefits to a business. It makes staff more efficient and therefore they produce more output. At the same time it improves safety and reduces the risk of accidents. Workers become more flexible, allowing the business to use them in whatever areas they are needed. This can also help to improve motivation. The provision of good training has led both to higher quality applicants and to better customer satisfaction.

The UK is currently facing a shortage of young people with skills in technology and engineering. This is partly due to fewer young people taking qualifications in science and maths in further and higher education. Network Rail has recognised that it needs to fill this gap. It has therefore put in place high quality training to make sure that it has people with the right skills it requires in the future.

On-the-job and off-the-job

There are two main types of training – ‘on-the-job’, which is training based in the workplace and ‘off-the-job’ which is based at a college or other learning centre. Network Rail has developed many such centres to fulfil its specific needs. It currently has 26 modern training centres across Britain. It has invested £23 million in four new state-of-the-art workforce development centres (WDCs) in Scotland, Kent, Bristol and Walsall.

These allow it to train up to 100 front-line engineering and maintenance people at once. Examples of off-the-job training at the Walsall centre include practical training on a purpose-built 60 metre stretch of internal track with signalling and 150 metres of outdoor track. Trainees learn how to practise procedures in controlled environments that they can then use when they return to the British Rail network. Network Rail 17 Image 3On-the-job training includes trainees accompanying mentors, for instance, when fixing signalling issues, and learning hands-on how to maintain the network effectively.


The Advanced Apprenticeship Scheme is a three-year programme, designed for young people aged over 17 with at least 4 GCSEs. Both boys and girls are encouraged to apply. This is the largest scheme of its type in Britain and allows young people to earn while they learn.

Apprentices spend a year training with the Royal Navy at Europe’s largest engineering training facility at HMS Sultan in Hampshire. Here they learn both technical and leadership skills. A further two years is spent in on-the-job training around Britain, returning to HMS Sultan for additional courses and learning. At Network Rail’s own training centres a mixture of classroom learning and job-related experience is given.

Network Rail uses its own expert engineers as trainers. This means that apprentices gain knowledge from people with direct experience of rail issues and projects. By the end of the apprenticeship, young people have the knowledge, qualifications and experience to become engineers in a number of rail-related areas. These include track, signals, electrification and overhead lines. In addition to being paid, apprentices are given accommodation whilst training, subsidised rail travel and generous annual leave.


Network Rail 17 Image 2The Graduate Programme helps Network Rail to build the leaders of the future. Graduates control the pace and content of their work so that they can progress at their own rate. They gain key experience on a range of placements and receive regular reviews on their progress and performance.

There are opportunities in all engineering disciplines (civil, mechanical and electrical). Trainees work on some of the biggest engineering projects in Europe and get involved in management and decision-making roles in all functional areas.

Network Rail | Managing change through training and development