INFRA Skills Ltd (IS), a subsidiary of Auctus Management Group, have been working closely with Colas Rail to launch the UK’s first level 3 Trailblazers Rail Apprenticeship scheme in 2018. Working in collaboration, they have together designed a bespoke apprenticeship that provides learners with a route into the rail sector, honing in on their scientific, technical, engineering, mathematical and design skillsets.

Awarded a ‘Gold Standard’ by the National Skills Academy for Rail (NSAR), they have been supported with their vision, realising the significance of how this new standard would make Rail Apprenticeships more flexible and focussed on the needs of employers.
IS and Colas Rail are supporting both learners and employers by developing a series of level 3 diplomas covering a varying range of competencies. The Level 3 Diploma for Rail Engineering Technician Knowledge supports the apprenticeships as they work towards developing the knowledge and skills required to complete the four core areas of the scheme. These include; Track, OLE, Signalling and most recently Traction Rolling Stock introduced in September 2018.

The Level 3 Diploma for Rail Engineering Technician Knowledge (track) covers the fundamental knowledge needed for assessing the condition of the infrastructure, following the completion of maintenance, inspection and or/renewal work. This has been established by providing learners with an understanding of track geometry and position, as well as planning and monitoring permanent way activities.
Colas Rail identified a significant skills shortage in the OLE industry, and as there wasn’t currently an apprenticeship programme built to cater for this sector, the Level 3 Diploma for Rail Engineering (OLE) was designed by IS. This training programme covers installation of small part steelworks, contact wiring, sectioning, insulation, registration and in-span components as well as providing an in-depth overview on how to enhance or renew OLE earthing and bonding cables.

As Colas Rail are one the of the UK’s biggest providers of Traction Rolling Stock, it was imperative that an apprenticeship path was created in order to safeguard future growth and sustainability. This is the most recent addition to the Level 3 Diploma, and aims to meet the needs of the employer ensuring that, upon completion, learners are able to; find diagnose and correct faults, identify potential faults and defects within electrical circuits and maintain and renew different types of traction and rolling stock, as well as use a range of fastenings including crimping and torque.

The final part of the training programme sees the apprentices develop their understanding of signal engineering. Learners are provided with a comprehensive framework that covers signalling equipment maintenance, fault finding, installation or testing.
In addition to the above, apprentices are also taught Behavioural Based Safety, Asbestos Awareness, Hazard Awareness, Sentinel and Equality, Diversity & Inclusion training. These courses provide apprentices with the knowledge to stay safe as well as helping to develop their understanding of different cultures, communication and inclusion.

To ensure that the apprentices are given extra points of support, IS have engaged with The Permanent Way Institution (PWI), which is a professional body for the UK track engineers and provides technical knowledge and support to those operating on the rail infrastructure. This partnership provides learners with a free membership to the PWI, which will allow them to use ‘MPWI’ after their name and will demonstrate their commitment to professional development. After completing their Level 3 qualification, they will have gained enough track experience to register with the Engineering Council as Engineering Technicians, certifying them as ‘EngTech MPWI’.

This apprenticeship programme has been a huge accomplishment for both INFRA Skills Ltd and Colas Rail, and by reducing the number of barriers faced by young people trying to gain employment, these apprentices will help boost the UK economy and aid the government in meeting their productivity targets. With a total of 54 successful learners having completed the training since 2017, using the new standard, the delivery of a second cohort have been commissioned by Colas Rail.