While most will be celebrating time with family and friends this Christmas Eve, four students from Newcastle College’s Rail Academy will be celebrating new jobs as they see in Christmas morning working on the railway.
Aaron Richardson, 20 from Gateshead, Ben Shilling, 30 from West Denton, Liam Barrass, 23 from Wallsend and Robert Hall, 25 from Bensham have secured jobs as linesmen on the east coast mainline where they will repair and upgrade the overhead line. And, as if Christmas hadn’t come early enough, the students will be paid double time for their 12 hour shift as well as a Network Rail standard bonus.
The job opportunity came through ISS Labour, who signed a partnership agreement with the Rail Academy earlier this year and have already taken on ten students in paid placements. Aaron, Ben, Liam and Robert were selected because of their consistently high standards of work, professional attitude and technical knowledge and ability.
Aaron from Gateshead joined the Rail Academy after working in manufacturing. “I was sick of the job I was doing and thought I could come to the Rail Academy and better myself. To be honest, I thought I would just do the course and then have to go out and find a job. I never expected to get a paid placement after a year and then go on to get a job as a linesman. Obviously the money is fantastic, but for me, the opportunity to go out and work as part of a team and actually do the job I want to do as a full time career is amazing.”
After leaving school and taking temporary jobs, Ben Shilling from West Denton saw a leaflet for the Academy and spotted an opportunity to change career. Ben said: “When I saw how much they had invested in the Academy and the money the Government was going to invest in Rail, I thought I want to be a part of that. There is no other place quite like it. Usually you would concentrate on one discipline, like track or overhead line, but at the Academy we get to train on all aspects of the Railway. A couple of years ago I was on minimum wage, now I am earning more than most people my age and working towards the opportunity of a full time job with ISS Labour.”
Marc McPake, Head of Rail at Newcastle College, said: “Just over a year ago Aaron, Ben, Liam and Robert came to us with no knowledge or experience of rail engineering. What they did have was drive and enthusiasm, something which they have applied to every aspect of their studies. The fact that they have now, less than 18 months later, walked into a extremely well paid job which will see them working with experienced engineers is just phenomenal and testament to the fantastic facility that we have built in partnership with industry.”
The Rail Academy is the first of its kind – a national training hub for rail engineering that will support employers looking to develop their existing workforce or recruit the next generation of engineers. The Academy opened in September 2014 with support from Network Rail and the National Skills Academy for Rail (NSAR).