Government funding supports up to 100 KiwiRail apprentices

KiwiRail will employ 100 new apprentices, thanks to government funding from the Regional Apprenticeship Initiative.

The New Zealand infrastructure manager and rail operator will receive $4 million to support the employment of up to 100 apprentices who will have a pathway into employment in the rail industry.

Apprenticeships will involve areas such as mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, electricity supply, rail operations, building/structures, and track infrastructure. Job roles will include signals and electrical specialists, train drivers, and track staff.

To facilite the training component, KiwiRail will also establish four new apprenticeship qualifications, taking the total number of qualifications to six.

KiwiRail group chief executive Greg Miller said the apprenticeships would not only ensure the trainees’ future, but the longevity of the company.

“The new qualifications will make rail more than just a job – they will make it a rewarding career – and help ensure KiwiRail has the new blood and skills it needs for a strong future,” he said.

With the funding support from the government, which KiwiRail will match with in-kind and cash contributions, will expand the depth of the rail industry workforce.

“This government support for apprenticeships will help us attract more young people into rail, including through a school gateway programme, and it will allow us to create a clear, sustainable pathway for them to learn skills and progress in the businesses,” said Miller.

Apprentices will be employed in the regions, however applications are open to anyone. Some apprenticeships will be offered to existing staff for upskilling, but most will be delivered to new staff.

“There is a wealth of experience and knowledge among KiwiRail’s staff and I want to see that passed down to the next generation,” said Miller.

“KiwiRail is committed to delivering an efficient and effective rail system for New Zealand – that can help take trucks off our roads and reduce our carbon emissions – but that can’t be done without people.”

Apprentices who are employed by KiwiRail will have a workforce development adviser assigned to them to provide pastoral care and ongoing support to enable the apprenticeship to be successfully maintained.

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Apprentices sought to build and maintain major rail works

More apprentices are being sought than ever are being offered by Sydney Trains, as the organisation looks to fill 90 positions.

The apprenticeships cover seven disciplines, including telecommunications, signal fitting, signal electrical, substations, rail traction, plant mechanic, and high voltage cables.

Once the apprentices finish their training, they will receive a nationally recognised trade qualification.

Sydney Trains acting chief executive Suzanne Holden said that there was a great diversity of work to be done on the network.

“The Sydney Trains network is the largest passenger rail network in the country and there’s plenty of work to do. Apprentices will learn the skills so they can help maintain infrastructure like our overhead wires, escalators, bridges and tunnels, signalling system and the fleet.”

Sydney Trains currently employs over 200 apprentices, and 60 joined earlier in 2020. Apprentices come from all backgrounds and are at various stages of their career.

“We are proud to offer an industry leading apprenticeship program, with women accounting for almost a quarter of our total apprentices,” said Holden.

NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said that the program offered a way to start a promising career.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted life for thousands of people across NSW. This apprenticeship program is an opportunity for people who may have been affected to take up an apprenticeship and develop life-long skills in the rail industry,” he said.

“Sydney Trains maintains a huge network covering more than 1,500 kilometres and a variety of skills are required to keep the network moving. I really want to encourage anyone interested in learning and developing their trade skills to apply.”

In Queensland, on the Cross River Rail project, a new qualification has been developed for those apprentices that are working on the program.

Cross River Rail has partnered with TAFE Queensland to introduce a Certificate III Rail Infrastructure traineeship qualification. Delivered by TAFE Queensland, the qualification is hoped to benefit the entire rail industry by creating a supply of well trained and qualified workers.

Already, 150 apprentices have worked on the rail project, and as the largest infrastructure project in Queensland the project will provide training opportunities for 450 trainees and apprentices over the lifetime of the project.

The rail industry has identified a lack of skilled workers as a key impediment to the delivery of major infrastructure projects, with the current skills shortfall a major component of the National Rail Action Plan. Skills shortages in construction, particularly high voltage electrical work, train signalling are identified, as well as roles in operational and manufacturing contexts.