Engineers from the Tyne and Wear Metro have given up their time to help students who want a career in the railway industry.
Nexus, the public body which owns and manages Metro, joined other rail industry bodies for a series of practical training sessions at Newcastle College’s Rail and Civil Engineering Academy in Gateshead as part of Industry Week.
It gave the students a chance to get some vital careers advice and find out more about the skills and disciplines that are needed to work in the industry.
The Rail Academy contains a real working environment with industry standard equipment and resources, which allowed the Nexus staff to showcase the many complex maintenance tasks it carries out every day on the Metro system - including track, signalling, and overhead line works – in a safe and secure environment.
There was even a transport accident scenario to demonstrate how to deal with a car crash on a level crossing.
Head of Maintenance Delivery at Nexus, Phil Kirkland, said: “We’re supporting this event so that we can talk to students, potential apprentices, and potential future employees about what we do.
“We’ve took them through the basics of track, overhead line, signalling and civil engineering.
“There were mock job interviews with our human resources team and we had the Shields Ferry crew there to talk about marine engineering, so everything that we do at Nexus was on display.
“In the practical sessions we showed the students how to take a Metro track points motors to pieces and how to rebuild the gearbox. We showed them how to assemble the Metro overhead lines and how we take an electrical isolation on Metro. Our track team showed them how we correct track faults.
“One of our road-rail maintenance vehicles was on site and we showed the students how we operate this equipment when we are carrying out essential maintenance work.”
He added: “There is a national skills shortage in engineering, and in railway engineering in particular. We’ve got to think long term over the next five, ten and fifteen years where we’re going to recruit the workers who will serve our industry for the next 40 years.”
Steven Shiel, Head of Rail and Civil Engineering at Newcastle College, said: “We have had a week of hands-on activities and tasks that inspired the students and this sort of event enables them to look to the future with confidence.”
Tia Jones, from Carr Hill in Gateshead, is four years into her education at the Rail and Civil Engineering Academy and the 19-year-old said: “I get a well-rounded insight into all aspects of the rail industry and civil engineering.
“I wanted to go into engineering and my teacher at the time suggested take a look at Newcastle College and what they could offer. The people are great and it’s very different to any learning environment I’ve been used to in the past. In terms of gaining industry experience it’s unique.”
Fellow student, Tait McKenna, 19, from Ryton, already has one eye on a management role within the rail industry. He said: “I came to a Newcastle College open evening four years ago and I remember my mum nagging me to choose something. Joining the Academy turned out to be the best decision I could have made.
“Pretty quickly we were doing practical stuff and that’s what I love. I’d like to become an engineering supervisor and move into a management role in the long term.”