NORTH East public transport executive Nexus is the latest company to support the apprenticeship programme after launching a scheme to attract youngsters to its rail maintenance division.
The new scheme, which is aimed at school leavers, offers three-year apprenticeships in the track, signaling, telecoms and plant departments of the Newcastle-based organisation.
Nexus, which owns the Tyne and Wear Metro, is expecting a high number of applicants for the four available places, which will include a one-year residential course at Europe’s largest specialist railway engineering training centre at HMS Sultan in Gosport, near Portsmouth, on the south coast.
The programme is tailored to rail engineering requirements and will teach engineering principles and skills through a blend of academic and practical exercises.
The second year of the apprenticeship will see the trainees work as part of an engineering maintenance team, based at the headquarters of Nexus Rail in South Gosforth, Newcastle, where they will look after sections of the Metro system including tracks, overhead lines and signals.
Ken Mackay, director of rail and infrastructure at Nexus, said: “Our new apprenticeship scheme is a fantastic opportunity for people to start a career in engineering.
“The good thing about the scheme is that it is vocational. The apprentices will learn skills for a specific job. They will have a fantastic three years and will get the chance to work on maintenance projects throughout the Metro system, looking after 120 kilometres of track.
“It will be hard work. Our maintenance crews have to work all hours and in all sorts of weather. However, this is a great way for someone who is interested in engineering to launch their career and get their foot on the first rung of the ladder.”
The new scheme comes as Nexus continues to work on the modernisation of the Metro system, which will see a total of £385m invested across the network.
Work has already begun on the £22m refurbishment of the commuter line between Byker and Tynemouth, which will see 12km of track replaced, 23,000 tonnes of new ballast laid and 300m of new embankments built.
Seven bridges along the key route will also be repaired in addition to the upgrade of Howdon and Meadow Well stations, in North Tyneside, and Chillingham Road station, in Heaton, Newcastle.
The Journal’s 500 in 100 campaign is also helping to increase the number of apprenticeship positions in the North East, with 492 trainees already signed up.
The campaign, launched in association with the National Apprenticeship Service and supported by the North East Chamber of Commerce, broke its previous target of 100 apprentices in under three weeks and is now within striking distance of its new target, with five weeks left to go.