NETWORK Rail held its first-ever apprenticeship open day in Swindon on Saturday in an effort to entice more prospective employees onto the scheme as the organisation grows at an increasing rate.

Thirty-nine potential apprentices arrived at the Swindon depot to speak to existing and former apprentices, and get an overview of the tasks they might specialise in as apprentices.

The move to hold this open day is a reflection of the desperate need for more people to come forward and join the scheme, as investment in the Great Western mainline skyrockets.

Chris Fuoco, infrastructure maintenance delivery manager at Network Rail, said: “We’ll take on 240 apprentices from across Wiltshire in the next intake, 25 of these solely in Swindon.

“Because there is so much investment on the Western Mainline, with the overhead electrification through Swindon, I need 50 to 75 people working in this area, whereas I would normally need 25 to 30 – that’s the need we are talking about.”

Michelle Palin, who heads up recruitment for the Network Rail scheme, said: “The apprenticeship is just the start of our learning programme.

“Many of our apprentices go on to be team leaders and managers and take up the opportunity to further their education through Network Rail."

Since 2005, Network Rail has trained 1,050 apprentices across Britain through the three-year scheme with a further 600 currently still in training.

The first year of the award-winning three-year scheme is spent at Europe’s largest engineering training facility at HMS Sultan in Hampshire.

There, apprentices specialise in either track, signalling, telecoms or electrification and plant. During their second and third years they experience work on the rail network’s front line, gaining vital experience as they train to become maintenance technicians.

Throughout this time they regularly return to HMS Sultan for further courses and training to add to the experience gained on the rail network.

One of the current apprentices, Simon Dabbs, 20, who is in his third year, is adamant now is the time for school leavers to join the scheme, as job security strengthens.

“If you’re going to join the railway you should be doing it now. said Simon, of Tweed Close in Swindon. “It’s all coming together: the lines are improving, the company has more money to invest than ever before.”

Luke Gallagher, 17, from Weston, was one of the prospective apprentices at the open day. He said: “It seems like a job with the right career prospects.

“My college recommended we come along and see what it was all about. It’s quite a big company and it looks like there is plenty of room for promotion.”

For more information on Network Rail’s apprenticeship scheme, log on to: www.