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.

Addressing the rail industry’s engineering deficit

The Australian rail industry has experienced a shortage in key engineering skills for many years now, in part due to the ageing workforce. One solution to this issue is to increase the quality and quantity of training being provided. Whether it be given to junior engineers or retraining experienced engineers, a well-trained and experienced workforce is a fundamental requirement of any successful project. Formed in 2016, Omada Rail Systems is growing rapidly and has established itself as a leading provider of rail systems management and engineering services throughout Australia. As a company focused on growth and innovation, Omada is undertaking a number of initiatives to tackle this issue head on.

Upgrading training facilities
Australia’s current rail project boom has led to a deficit of highly experienced and skilled engineers, particularly in signalling. With an abundance of major projects being delivered concurrently, such as Inland Rail, Cross River Rail, and the Melbourne Metro Tunnel, the industry’s engineering resources are stretched thin. While being involved in many of these major projects, Omada Rail Systems has been chosen to complete a project aimed at tackling Australia’s engineering shortfall. This project is to upgrade the signalling facilities at the Rail Academy in Newport, Victoria’s only specialist rail training facility. Omada’s goal in this project is to transform the Rail Academy into one of the best equipped facilities in the world.

Omada’s junior engineers will be involved in all aspects of the Rail Academy project while under the mentorship and strict guidance of senior staff. This ensures they gain valuable hands on experience and develop a well-rounded set of skills, while completing work to Omada’s high standards. This work allows Omada to demonstrate its signal engineering capabilities, ranging from project inception through to the testing and commissioning phase. Omada will be creating numerous designs detailing different signalling and infrastructure scenarios. Alongside these designs, there will be duplicates made with intentional faults, to provide training in fault finding. When asked about his views on the project, Omada Rail Systems director Christopher Miller said, “This project is an exciting opportunity for Omada Rail Systems to enhance the development of our own engineers, and once completed, all engineers who train there.”

Bringing on engineers
Providing junior engineers with valuable experience in projects enhances their training and builds a new generation of engineers with the necessary knowledge and skill base to deliver Australia’s pipeline of rail projects. Over the course of Omada’s three-year graduate program, cadets are exposed to every aspect of rail signalling, from planning and design all the way through to testing and commissioning.

Offering a complete range of engineering and management services across all aspects of the project life cycle, including planning & scoping, feasibility studies, and preliminary & detailed design, Omada is constantly looking to develop all areas of their team. As a growing company with ongoing projects across Australia, there are a great deal of opportunities available to build on their current team. Putting a strong emphasis on Omada’s capability to train new and current staff, Miller said, “It doesn’t concern me if people are not superstars on paper, our engineers can guide and teach them along the way. As long as they have a positive attitude, a strong work ethic and are a team player, we can give them all the training required.”

Boosting the industry’s talent pool
Alongside their engineering capabilities, Omada has subject matter experts providing signalling competency assessments, qualified to assess Metro Trains Melbourne, V/Line, and ARTC competencies. This service provides industry engineers with a value for money option when updating or attaining their competency, supplying the industry with a greater number of qualified engineers. According to Omada’s website analytics, 37.25 per cent of people looking for competency assessments are under 35, showing that there is a large talent pool of young engineers looking to develop their competencies and help drive Australian rail forward.

Following the delivery of a number of successful commissionings in Queensland, NSW, and Victoria, and the impending increased demand of testing and commissioning resources, Omada has proactively grown their testing team. Now capable of taking on much larger projects, Omada’s growth has created opportunities for inexperienced but hard working engineers to gain the valuable experience and training they require.

To find out more about Omada Rail Systems and the work they are doing, head to their website to watch their capabilities video or read their latest update. www.omadarail.com