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Schooling local signalling skills

Staff are probably more aware now than ever before about the risk posed by excessive travel to and from railway worksites, yet it continues to be an issue. Where engineering skills are in short supply, staff will often need drafting in from far afield. Any major future infrastructure projects with work sites that span large geographical areas have the potential to compound the problem.

MPI – an agency which specialises in rail recruitment – is working to address this challenge and is seeing positive results from its partnership with industry.

Glasgow welcome

MPI has been supplying trained personnel to the railway industry since 1989.The agency is a leader in signalling skills – although it also has expertise across rolling stock, civils and maintenance disciplines.

MPI has been working with Siemens Rail Automation for the past five years to fill a void in the industry for signalling installation technicians. Last month, the first intake of rail signalling installation trainees to support signalling schemes in Scotland were welcomed at Siemens’ new Cambuslang depot just outside of Glasgow, where they will be based.

Eighteen MPI trainees have been selected to take part. “A lot of them are asking what’s the catch?” said Simon Henser, a director at MPI. “The catch is they’ve got to be committed and got to show a great attitude towards safety.”
Trainees will complete Basic Signalling 1 (BS1) and BS2 courses, which will give them the underpinning knowledge and experience in railway signalling they need to become IRSE-licensed installers.

Trainees initially undertake a 12-week work experience placement before completing a 10-day signalling engineering BS1/BS2/SPWEE course. They then work as a trainee installer for six to nine months before working through a six-day electrical installation course.

Simon commented: “There has been a  recent shortage of IRSE licensed  installation personnel and it is fantastic that Siemens Rail Automation in Glasgow have worked with MPI to start this scheme for Scotland. This is a clear demonstration that the Siemens team in Glasgow are keen to invest in local people for current and future projects in Scotland.”

One of the new starters is 29-year-old Bryan McCarron from Motherwell. The father of two said he was relishing the opportunity to further his career with MPI and Siemens, having spent the last 12 years doing protection and civils work. “I think it’s a cracking opportunity and I am loving the trainee job and I am really keen to progress and make Siemens and MPI proud of me,” said Bryan.

Following the launch of the trainee presentation, Bryan received an award from Siemens for the best close call of the month on the PARR project.

Largest but not the first

Siemens, which employs around 1,650 in its Rail Automation business in the UK, has already delivered several signalling schemes in Scotland, including the Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Central renewal schemes and the Airdrie to Bathgate and Borders Railway enhancement programmes. Future works include the Highlands and Edinburgh to Glasgow enhancement projects and the Motherwell North and Polmadie and Rutherglen renewals programmes.

The programme being run in Glasgow is the largest but it is not the first, said Simon. Smaller trainee installation schemes are already being run with Siemens in York and Birmingham, as well as on the Crossrail project in London. Around 50 trainees have come through the programme to date.

Richard Cooper, Siemens operations director, East, commented: “We
 are delighted to support this initiative. Trainees are vital to securing future generations of skilled workers on the railway, across all disciplines and trades, and this scheme supported by Siemens Rail Automation in Glasgow is a great step towards achieving this.”


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