July 29, 2019
Westwood hosts Network Rail’s award-winning apprenticeship schemeCaption: Shannon's Story
“I applied because I wanted to challenge myself. I studied engineering in school but it was mainly woodwork. I liked problem solving and hands-on working but I’d never had the opportunity to progress this after leaving school as I went straight into a business admin apprenticeship where I worked as a receptionist.
“I enjoyed the receptionist job but after a while I felt it was tedious and I wanted to push myself to see how much I could learn and achieve. I thought Network Rail’s apprenticeship scheme offered me a chance to develop myself personally and professionally.
“I chose Telecoms at the assessment centre because it’s at the forefront of groundbreaking technologies. The future development of the railway will rely heavily upon telecommunications and I wanted to be a part of this. Telecoms is also really diverse: we can be jointing fibre and copper cables trackside or working on one of the UK’s largest fibre networks, installing and fixing lineside telephones or working on the railway’s own radio system.
“I work with four previous apprentices and they offer me advice and help if I ever encounter any problems or if I have any questions. Working alongside experienced technicians means I can gain knowledge and practise the skills I learn on the training courses.
“The best thing I have learnt so far is transmission. I got to learn the different methods of getting information from point A to point B, whether it's using copper cables, radio links or fibre links. We get to use a mix of new transmission methods like the fixed telephone network (FTN), one of the largest fibre networks in the country, and old legacy transmission that has been used for decades. It was fascinating to learn how someone's voice is transmitted through lots of different equipment and is replaced thousands of miles away. I get to play a part in ensuring that everyone can communicate safely with each other to keep the railway running. I can also fix faults when cables are cut or stolen.
“We have targets to achieve through the three years. Some of these are work experience at different depots and departments. I’ve spent time with a Signalling maintenance team in Middlesbrough and I’m also about to spend time with an Electrification and Plant team. My manager is keen to help me out and has allowed me to spend time with a signaller, help out at recruitment events and take part in big jobs across the country.
“For the first 10 months I lived at HMS Sultan, a Navy base in Fareham. [The residential part of the scheme has since changed to 20 weeks at Westwood in Coventry.] In my spare time I was with the other apprentices and we went on trips to Thorpe Park, London and other places. We played pool and watched films together, went out for meals… Everyone was like one giant family and we all supported each other as best we could. If I could do this part of my apprenticeship again I would in a heartbeat! I loved it!”