Apprenticeship helps Owen take the right track to a career

Owen Flanders, Network Rail

Owen Flanders, Network Rail - Credit: Archant

Network Rail apprenticeship scheme helps Suffolk based rail engineer rise to the top

Ipswich-based signal maintenance engineer, Owen Flanders, is proof that an apprenticeship can get you ahead in the workplace.

He has taken part in a video to encourage people to think about apprenticeships ahead of National Apprenticeship Week.

Owen works on one of the most heavily-used freight paths in Britain, covering the mainline from London Liverpool Street to Norwich, which also sees around 32 million passenger journeys a year.

Owen, now 28, started out as a Network Rail apprentice in 2007 and worked his way up to his current role as a signal maintenance engineer at Ipswich, managing a team of over 100, who manage the safety and reliability of the signalling equipment on the railway.

Owen has also progressed his education while climbing the career ladder. He has gained a Bachelor’s in engineering and is soon to complete a Master’s degree in engineering at the University of Birmingham, which is also funded by Network Rail.

Owen said: “I’d encourage anyone who is leaving school or wants to change their career to think about an apprenticeship. It has given me a good knowledge of the job, and has really helped me to get where I am now. The usual route after school would be to go to college and then university, but learning while earning has meant that I can apply what I learn in the classroom to real life experience out on the track. I’ve always been ambitious, and the apprenticeship has shown me that I can have a job and get an education at the same time.”

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Apprenticeships are not simply a route for students who do not have the grades to go to university – far from it.

They provide a fantastic opportunity for anyone who wants to learn new skills and is prepared to work hard and get ahead. And this is the message from Network Rail chief executive, Mark Carne.

Mr Carne, the boss of one of the UK’s biggest employers with 35,000 staff across Britain, wants to challenge the ‘stigma’ associated with apprenticeships, and is calling on teachers, parents and employers to work together to educate more young people about the benefits they can offer. This is in line with Network Rail research showing that graduates from the company’s Advanced Apprenticeship Scheme are often the first in their friendship group to achieve their personal and professional goals.

Mark Carne, said: “Our apprenticeship scheme has been running for ten years and we are incredibly proud of what our graduates have gone on to achieve. Many tell us that our scheme has fast-tracked them towards achieving personal and professional goals ahead of their friends, such as managing a team and buying a house.

“Our graduated apprentices are living proof that there should be no stigma associated with apprenticeships, and that with the right attitude and work ethic, you can reap the rewards alongside those who have chosen a university route. In fact, many of our apprentices have gone on to gain higher qualifications, including degrees, through our education programme. I would urge employers, teachers and parents to join forces to educate young people about the fantastic benefits that an apprenticeship can offer, both in a personal and professional capacity.”

Research from Network Rail shows that it’s Advanced Apprenticeship Scheme puts people on track for a prosperous and rewarding career. A survey of graduates from the scheme found that:

More than half of those surveyed were the first among their friends to buy a house (52%).

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