February 11 2022

10 reasons a rail engineering apprenticeship could be the perfect career move

With the UK rail industry being one of the fastest growing in Europe, it makes sense that a lot of people are now considering a career in rail engineering, and the perfect place for young people like you who are now exploring career options to get started in this area is with a rail engineering apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships have always been popular due to the fact that you get the hands-on experience needed to do your job effectively as well as the theoretical education and a salary, so it’s really a perfect balance.

On the employer side, apprenticeships look great on your CV as they show true commitment and willingness to learn.

If you’re currently in the position of deciding if a rail engineering apprenticeship is the right move for you, here are 10 benefits to this career path:

  • Hands-on experience: unlike being in a classroom, you’re able to gain the valuable experience needed in the day-to-day work environment. This is what employers are really going to be looking for when making hiring decisions;


  • Direct access to those already doing the job: there’s little more valuable when learning a job than shadowing those already doing it. With a rail engineering apprenticeship, you have full access to this. It allows you to learn, ask questions, and get the support and insider knowledge you really need when it comes for applying for a full-time role;


  • Gain sought-after skills: employers either run their own apprenticeship programmes, such as those offered by Network Rail, or partner with organisations who run them. These are designed based on the real and tangible skills that employers seek when hiring for roles, so you know that your internship is moving towards something that’s needed;


  • Apprenticeships grow with you: many people think that apprenticeships are only for school-leavers or new graduates, but they’re open to all. This means that as your ambitions and career goals grow, you can find an apprenticeship that will suit you. Network Rail, for example, offer various rail engineering apprenticeships at different levels and that focus on different specialisations;


  • Job flexibility: apprenticeships, even if it’s something specific like rail engineering won’t leave you limited in terms of opportunities. Employers who value the skills gained from these programmes will have various opportunities within their company for you to move into a different area or further your education and career prospects on the job;


  • No student loans: unlike when you go to university, you won’t have to take out a loan to do an apprenticeship. In fact, not only does the company pay 100% of the cost, but they pay you a salary as you work and learn skills. A true win-win;


  • Networking possibilities: as the saying goes “it’s not what you know, but who you know.” This has never been more true than when trying to build a career for yourself. During an apprenticeship, you’ll constantly meet new people from all stages across the organisation and will be able to learn and gain support from them - these contacts will be useful in the future;


  • Get noticed: if you’re interested in a particular industry or sector, such as rail engineering, then doing an apprenticeship really helps you stand out from the crowd and be noticed when it’s time to hire for full time positions;


  • Gain transferable skills: although it’s undeniable that you learn certain skills at school and college, the skills you learn on the job are ones you take with you through life. Not just the technical aspects of the work itself, but softer skills such as strong communication are ones that you can apply to different areas of the company as you progress;


  • An enjoyable experience: for most people who pick the correct apprenticeship, it’s a truly enjoyable experience. For many, this is their first time experiencing life in the working-world. Getting to learn new skills, feeling a sense of achievement when seeing how they progress, and meeting new friends along the way is something that makes it truly worthwhile.


Of course, joining an apprenticeship programme - especially one as technical as rail engineering isn’t something to decide lightly, and you really need to be sure this is what you want to do and be willing to commit to it.

Although it’s going to be more than worth it, we don’t want you to just take our word for it, so here some examples from people who took the leap into a rail engineering apprenticeship to share their stories with you:


Tia Anderson is an apprentice making great progress, becoming a white hat earlier this year and with only a few months left until she completes her apprenticeship programme.

Having previously worked in a warehouse, she really wanted to learn a ‘proper’ trade. When she applied for the NVQ Level 2 Rail Engineering programme, she impressed McGinley staff with her enthusiasm. She started in January 2021 in the classroom, getting the small tool tickets.  Then it was out on track, going to depots and worksites around the South East, working in different gangs and growing her knowledge of different tasks.

Tia comments on her apprenticeship so far  “McGinley has looked after me, friendly people ready to give me information, keep finding me shifts and different roles to broaden my knowledge.  It’s been a really good experience.  The sector is male-dominated, but that never bothered me”

When asked what she would tell new recruits or anyone considering joining the railway Tia said “For any new apprentices, I’d say it’s important to ask questions – helps me improve.”


Kelly Hill started her apprenticeship at the same time as Tia.  That apprenticeship intake had 40% women, a record for our training partner Intertrain.

After her initial training, Kelly was out on track, working in different gangs to develop her knowledge of different elements of the role. It was here that Kelly found her enthusiasm and talent for safety, as a result, Kelly was allocated to safety-critical tasks, setting up the worksite before the rest of the gang arrive and signposting the site with marker boards.

When interviewed, Kelly stated that she found arriving at Waterloo station as a woman in hi-viz a bit daunting with so many men around, yet she has now feels settled and is enjoying time with her gangs. She added that sometimes the role is stressful with time pressure, but is never in any need to rush or cut corners – as it’s her role to help maintain safety on site. 

Kelly told us that “I really like the safety-critical type of work, which I want to progress when I complete the apprenticeship programme in a few months’ time. It would be good to find out more about possessions and line blockages.”

“If anyone is thinking about an apprenticeship, do it! There’s loads of support financially and with training, so many paths to choose.”


So, if you are 18 or over and a rail engineering apprenticeship sounds like an option for you, contact our McGinley Apprenticeship team at to find out more.


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