As it’s National Apprenticeship Week, it seems only fitting to highlight the journey of one of our apprentices, Joanna Clarke.

Considered a “senior student” Joanna is currently half way through our Level Four Apprenticeship – Passenger Transport Operations Manager. After working with Network Rail for 18 years in Programme Management, Joanna felt it was time for a change of career.

Last year, Joanna completed an Operational Pathways Programme within Rail Academy which is our new online learning platform.

This gave her the introduction into Operations that she needed before studying for the role in more depth through the apprenticeship.

Joanna said: “I have worked in the rail industry a long time but never in the operations function. I needed really targeted and focused training which the Rail Academy gave me so I could hit the ground running in my new role. It was almost tailor made to me and what I needed. I have been able to take the training and use it in my day to day role which is great. It’s a great mix of theory / online learning and practical. It’s a good short sharp introduction into what I needed.

“I then started the apprenticeship in September and I’m due to finish around August with a couple of work based activities. I really wanted a new challenge. In terms of my career jigsaw puzzle, operations was the key missing piece.

“I didn’t even know that it was an option for me having no previous experience but the training available through the Chartered Institution of Railway Operators has allowed me to have a complete career change . I’m very fortunate that Network Rail is a great company to work for and the Anglia team is fully supporting me through the apprenticeship.

“It’s great that there is this opportunity to do a quick and focussed pathway and I get a qualification afterwards.”

We’ve partnered with the Glasgow Caledonian University for this apprenticeship which has a well-structured curriculum.

Joanna added: “There is a really broad spectrum of learning, some of which I’m familiar with having been in the industry for a long time but there is also a lot of new learning for me. I do virtual classes with other apprentices but the structure is tailored to me as I still do my day job. The group sessions are great, I think it’s important to network with colleagues in the industry and keep up to date with what they’re doing.”

We are high quality training providers, dedicated to delivering improvements to the railway operations workforce. Not only are the learning materials exceptional but the support provided is second to none.

Joanna added: “It can sometimes be challenging, learning whilst working full time but the support you get from the Chartered Institution of Railway Operators is great. Having a coach you meet every four weeks who holds you accountable but is equally encouraging is fantastic. I know if I’m struggling I can pick up the phone and I know there will always be someone there as a coach or mentor.”

Joanna was one of the first at Network Rail Anglia to make a career change into the Operations team internally, and speaking as a “senior student” she said: “I was a guineapig to see if we could take people from within the business and move them into operations. Having both the Rail Academy platform and the apprenticeship in place is a great way to make this happen. For those looking for a big career change, like me, it’s good for them to know there is this flexible pathway through a professional qualification and I would certainly recommend it.”