Thursday 20 Jan 2011


Region & Route:
| Wales & Western: Western
| Wales & Western
workshop 1

Interest in Network Rail’s apprentice scheme has rocketed with twice as many pre-registering for the award winning scheme as last year, with almost 8,000* people competing for around 200 places. In the South West of England, there are places available in Gloucester, Bristol, Swindon, Par and Newton Abbott.

In recent years, interest in the scheme has soared but there has also been a massive shift in the age profile of the apprentices. In 2007 the majority (64%) of apprentices were aged 17-18. Last year this had almost halved (35%) and 43% of apprentices were aged 19-21. Apprentices aged over 22 have increased five-fold in this time, comprising over a fifth of its intake in 2010 (22%), with its oldest apprentice aged 35.

As the scheme opens for applications, Network Rail has called for a national debate on the funding for older apprentices. Equal funding support for 19+s as for those aged 16-18 would help businesses across Britain drive recovery and create as many apprenticeships as possible. There is 50% less support for apprentices aged 19 or over, making it more costly to run a scheme as more older apprentices join.

Acting chief executive Peter Henderson, said: “The huge numbers we're attracting each year shows young people recognise an apprenticeship can offer a path to a challenging and rewarding career. For us it has proven great value in investing in our people.

“With such competition for places, it is vital that if business is to lead this country to economic recovery, the right support is needed. A more flexible approach offering equal support for all apprentices, whatever their age, would help businesses large and small create the apprenticeships and the skilled workforce Britain needs to thrive."

Alistair Heyes, 23, joined Network Rail apprenticeship scheme based at the Swindon depot with a focus on track.

He said: “Before joining Network Rail, I completed a vocational college course which led to various hand-on roles. Unfortunately I was made redundant, but used this time to research apprenticeships and came across the Network Rail scheme on the national apprenticeships website. I enjoyed the practical side of my job so the Network Rail scheme was exactly what I was looking for, the chance to earn and learn new skills at the same time.

Emma Taylor, 19, who joined in 2009 and is now working in Swindon said: "Whilst studying at college I had a part time job at my local airfield. I really enjoyed working outdoors and learning about how things work. At school I had always enjoyed making and creating things and I seemed to be good at practical subjects so after college I decided to apply for the Network Rail apprenticeship scheme. The amount of opportunities the scheme offered really appealed to me and I have always had an interest I engineering so it suited my skill set perfectly."

Notes to editors

  • In 2010, 64% of Network Rail’s apprentice intake were aged 19 or over
  • In 2007, the age of its oldest apprentice was 25. Last year it was 35.
  • The number of apprentices aged 17-18 that it has taken on has reduced by 29% since 2007.
  • Women still only make up around 5% of the intake – low but nearly twice the national average for engineering apprenticeships

% of apprentices aged 17-18 (actual numbers in brackets)



25 and older


64% (132)

32% (65)

3% (6)

1% (2)


41% (95)

39% (90)

16% (38)

4% (9)


35% (71)

43% (89)

16% (32)

6% (13)

* pre-registrations were closed 23 December at 7,782.

Contact information

Passengers / community members
Network Rail national helpline
03457 11 41 41

Latest travel advice
Please visit National Rail Enquiries

Network Rail press office -Western route
07730 354394

About Network Rail

We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.

Usually, there are almost five million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.

Follow us on Twitter: @networkrail
Visit our online newsroom: www.networkrailmediacentre.co.uk