ASLEF and Virgin launch driver apprenticeship scheme

15 November 2017

ASLEF joined with Virgin Trains today to announce the launch of the rail industry’s first driver apprenticeship scheme. The scheme, the first to be launched by a train operating company, will develop the train drivers of the future and the youngest train driver in the UK will come from the scheme.

More than 1,200 applications were received for these positions, with the three final candidates selected in February following a tough 16-stage recruitment process aimed at identifying the highest calibre potential apprentices.

During a year-long training programme, apprentices will receive training in all aspects of the train driver role plus additional training in functional skills and English, Maths and ICT. They will shadow drivers as well as train managers and station staff so they get a full understanding of how their role fits with others in our railway industry.

The first three apprentices are Simon Tyrer, 29, from Preston, the former branch manager of a phone shop; Samantha Jones, 24, from Manchester, who spent some time working on-board trains before realising her passion was to sit behind the wheel; and Joe Wilson, 19, from Liverpool who, having initially tried his hand at an automotive apprenticeship, decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a train driver. Joe will be driving on his 21st birthday, beating his dad to the punch by four months.

Kevin Lindsay, ASLEF's organiser in Scotland, said: 'We welcome this joint initiative and look forward to continuing developing the driver apprenticeship scheme with Virgin West Coast Trains as this is a great opportunity to bring young people into the rail industry and particularly the driving grade.'

Si Goode, DCC, VTEC, said: 'ASLEF is keen to see this develop as part of an apprenticeship framework and want to be included in addressing overall recruitment plans and giving young people an opportunity in the driving grade.'

Patrick McGrath, human resources director at Virgin, said: 'We are delighted to be launching the first train driver apprenticeship scheme alongside ASLEF. It’s clear that the appetite for high quality training in the rail industry is there and we look forward to inviting the next generation of train drivers to come join us at Virgin Trains.'

Train driver apprentice Samantha Jones said: 'I’m so happy to have the opportunity to be able to dive straight into this apprenticeship and build on the skills I’ll need as a driver. It’s given me a clear picture of what the role is actually like and everyone has been so supportive along the way.'

The initiative with Virgin has been launched in TUC young workers' month which culminates in ASLEF holding its first ever conference on Tuesday 28 November. ASLEF's newly-formed young members' forum will be hosting the event.

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