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How to become an apprentice in rail

One of the best ways to enter the rail sector is through an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships offer the opportunity to earn while you learn and gain a recognised qualification on completion. Whether you want to work in IT, engineering, business, train driving, human resources or sustainability – there’s a route into rail for you with apprenticeships.
What is an apprenticeship?
Apprenticeships combine on-the-job learning with study. You will be employed full-time (usually 30-40 hours per week) and your employer will pay you wages. You will work with experienced staff at your organisation to build skills and do about a day a week of study, with a training provider or university.
Why should I do an apprenticeship in rail?
There are many billions of pounds being invested in rail now and over the next decade. This means that the demand is high for people with the skills to build and run the railway. Rail companies are passionate about investing in people so they can develop these skills and have a career for life – often through apprenticeships. Apprenticeships are a great way to earn, learn and gain experience all at the same time – and gain a qualification without the tuition fees. There will be lots of support available from both your employer and training provider. What is great about rail apprenticeships is the wide range of roles on offer, presenting opportunities for a rail apprenticeship no matter what your interests are or where you are located. Read our article ‘Five reasons you should do an apprenticeship’ to find out more.
Types of apprenticeships
There is a misconception that apprenticeships are only for physical work like construction, but apprenticeships are available for just about any field. Whether you want to work in IT, engineering, finance, human resources, marketing, project management or sustainability – there is an apprenticeship. Within rail, there is demand for both in-field and office roles. Apprenticeships have equivalent educational levels:
  • Intermediate (Level 2) – equivalent to GCSE
  • Advanced (Level 3) – equivalent to A Level
  • Higher (Levels 4, 5, 6 and 7) – equivalent to foundation degree and above
  • Degree (Level 6 and 7) – equivalent to Bachelor’s or Master’s degree
What qualifications do I need for an apprenticeship?
The qualifications needed for an apprenticeship in rail can vary depending on the apprenticeship programme and the employer. Apprenticeships are typically available to people aged 16 and older. Some apprenticeships may have specific age requirements, so check the eligibility criteria. There may not be strict academic requirements for certain apprenticeships, especially Level 2 and Level 3 apprenticeships. Employers often prioritise candidates with an interest in the role and a willingness to learn. Other apprenticeships will require GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades A*-C, or A Levels. The job description and criteria provided by the employer will clearly state what qualifications are necessary.
How do I find apprenticeship opportunities?
Visit the Apprenticeships page on the Routes into Rail website, at the bottom of the page you will find links to various apprenticeship schemes available across the rail sector. You can also search our vacancies for apprenticeships. Routes into Rail has a newsletter all about rail apprenticeships that are currently open for application. Subscribe here.
What is the application process like?
For most apprenticeships, you will need to submit a CV and cover letter or fill out an application form. The next stage of the process will involve an interview. You may also be required to do tests or exercises, like multi-choice tests to see how you might respond in different scenarios. The company you are applying for an apprenticeship with will explain the application process to you and will be available if you have any questions. Adjustments can be made to take account of a disability or condition. As with any job, the process can be a bit nerve-wracking but, with a bit of preparation, you can set yourself up to succeed! To find out more about apprenticeships in rail, visit https://routesintorail.org/apprenticeships/. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.
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