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Being a Network Rail Engineering Apprentice

Network Rail Engineering Apprentice, Marisa Bajerski, chose an engineering apprenticeship with the owner of the railway infrastructure in England, Wales and Scotland. Here she speaks of how it helped her get on track for a great career.

Why did you choose an apprenticeship, rather than go to university or straight into work? I didn’t want to go to university and have a lot of student debt, when I could instead have the job I wanted via an apprenticeship. I also still wanted to progress my learning, so that is why I chose an apprenticeship over a job as I was able to gain a level 3 NVQ qualification.

Did you know what you wanted to do before you chose the Network Rail apprenticeship? I knew I wanted to go into engineering, but I did not know what area I wanted to specialise in. I applied for a few different engineering apprenticeships in different industries.

Why did you choose Network Rail? I chose Network Rail because it has such a good reputation. I also have family within Network Rail and the rail industry, so I knew that it was a good sector to work in.

What have been the highlights of your apprenticeship? Studying at Network Rail’s Westwood training facility in Coventry was definitely the biggest highlight of the apprenticeship scheme. I made many friends for life and it was an amazing 21 weeks. I would do it all again tomorrow.

Would you recommend it to other women, and why? I would highly recommend it to other women. I know that engineering can be daunting for women as it is a very male-dominated industry, however Network Rail as a company is very diverse. I have been welcomed and do not get treated any differently to anybody else.

Have you felt supported in your time as an apprentice with Network Rail? I have felt very supported. At Westwood the staff are very helpful, and you can get help from many people, whether it’s academically, personally or for any other reason. Working at the depot I feel very much the same and I know that if I have any issues there are plenty of people that I could go to and they would do whatever they could to ensure I was helped.

What are some of the best things you have worked on? I most enjoy the work which I complete in the basket on the machine (?), this work is more hands on and that’s why I prefer it. We have completed maintenance on neutral sections and section insulators and we have lifted balance weights.

Do you feel like you’ve learned lifelong career skills while on the apprenticeship scheme? Yes, I believe that the railway is one of the only industries which is a lifelong career and Network Rail is a company with which you can keep progressing. It won’t be monotonous if you choose for it not to be.

What was the application process like, did you find it easy? Applying for the apprenticeship wasn’t difficult. The steps to make the application were very well communicated and gave you plenty of time to organise what you had to do.

What do your friends and family think of what you’re doing? They’re very impressed with what I’m doing as not many women go into engineering. I am on a good wage for my age, I’ve gained a qualification and I have no student debt.

What is it like to live on the campus? Life at Westwood is brilliant. You get your own room with an ensuite, and the facilities are amazing with a gym, pool and sauna. The food was really good, and the staff were all very nice. They looked after us and were very helpful.

What are the people like that you work and train with? The people on my apprenticeship were really good. I made many friends and we all go on holiday together each year. At my work, I also have a great group of people. They make it enjoyable and help me whenever I need it.

Did you feel you were in a safe living and working environment? I do believe I am in a safe working environment both at Westwood and at the depot. As a woman, I was slightly nervous about what it was going to be like as depots can get a reputation for themselves. However, it was not like that at all and everyone respects you the same as they do the men.

How hard did you find the course? The course had some hard parts and some easy parts. It all depends on what type of learning you find easiest and what subjects you are good at, just like any form of learning. However, if you give yourself time and put the effort in the work is easier. If you show willing, the instructors will do what they can to help you if you are struggling.

Do you feel fulfilled by the apprenticeship? I feel like I have made an achievement by completing the apprenticeship scheme and I am happy that I chose to do it. I would do it all again if I had to.

Interested in following Marisa’s example? Apply for a Network Rail Engineering Apprenticeship