Thameslink Programme apprentices get to work

Thameslink Programme apprentices get to work

“When other people are finishing university, I’ll have a career.”

Eighteen-year-old Lewes Burton-Bell reflects on his decision to become one of 12 Thameslink Programme apprentices, working on the vast scheme to rebuild London Bridge station and improve north-south travel through central London.

The new batch of apprentices, drawn largely from the local area, started work on the £6.5bn government-sponsored project this month, after completing their first year at Network Rail’s apprentice training facility, shared with the Royal Navy, at HMS Gosport.

Divided equally between three of the partners delivering the Thameslink Programme – Network Rail, Siemens Rail Automation and Balfour Beatty – the apprentices will play a vital role in delivering one of the most important transport projects in the UK and have their sights firmly set on climbing the ladder.

Thameslink Programme safety manager Mike Netherton has been working with them to introduce them to the railway. He said: “I came in as an apprentice and worked my way up, so I’m keen to give other people that same chance.

“Previously we found that most people’s route into project management was through a graduate scheme but this now gives these guys a path there. They are the engineers and project managers of the future.”

Having spent a year learning the basics of railway engineering, the 12 young people will now spend a further two years of training on the job, working on a variety of trades from track, to signals and telecoms and electrical engineering.

Lewes Burton-Bell, 18, from Bromley, is working for Network Rail. He said: “My year of training has been an unforgettable experience. I was away from home for nine months and I got put in with a new bunch of people from all over the country. I adapted to it and you learn a lot about yourself.

“I took this opportunity because this has given me the best chance to progress in my career. In two or three years’ time when everyone else is finishing university I will already have my foot in the door. I want to be a project manager; I want to be up there.”

Gervaise McKinnon, 25, from Shepherd’s Bush, is working for Balfour Beatty. He said: “I studied engineering at college and at university, but having a degree and not the experience doesn’t mix at all and this will help me in my career and move me up the ladder.”

Dave Cargill, 18, from Cheshunt, is working for Siemens Rail Automation and will start working on signal installation. He said: “It’s difficult to get a career with just the skills you pick up from sixth form and I always liked engineering and discovering how things work. I was tempted by university but when I looked into it this was more beneficial and I could go straight into working.”

Charlie White, 20, from Deptford, is working for Balfour Beatty. He said: “I took engineering at GCSE level and was studying plumbing at college, but I applied for this opportunity as soon as I saw it.  I’m working on track for now but I want to be a team leader and then project manager. I would encourage anyone to apply.”