Virgin Trains launches first ever train driver apprenticeship

Virgin Trains has announced the launch of the rail industry’s first driver apprenticeship scheme in partnership with Aslef, the train drivers’ union.

The apprenticeship will develop the train drivers of the future and the youngest train driver in the UK will come from the scheme. More than 1,200 applications were received for these positions, with three final candidates selected in February, following a 16-stage recruitment process aimed at identifying the highest calibre potential apprentices.

The year-long training programme will teach apprentices all aspects of the train driver role, plus additional training in functional skills and English, Maths and ICT. The apprentices will shadow drivers, train managers and station staff to gain a full appreciation of how their role fits with others. They’ll also benefit from further rotations at Virgin Trains to understand everything from control and command, safety and fleet management and they’ll have the chance to spend time with other Virgin companies, including Virgin Atlantic.

The first cohort of apprentices comprises of 29-year-old Simon Tyrer from Preston, a former branch manager of a phone shop, 24-year-old Samantha Jones from Manchester, who spent some time working on-board trains before realising her passion sat behind the wheel of the train, and 19-year-old Joe Wilson from Liverpool who initially tried his hand at an automotive apprenticeship before deciding to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a train driver. Joe will be driving on his 21st birthday, beating his dad to the punch by four months.


Left to right: Joe, Samantha and Simon

“I’m so happy to have the opportunity to be able to dive straight into this apprenticeship and build on the skills I’ll need as a driver,” Samantha said. “It’s given me a clear picture of what the role is actually like and everyone has been so supportive along the way.”

The apprenticeship scheme was co-designed by a former Virgin Trains Red Track apprentice, Sam Edwards. He was inspired by his own experience on the business management apprenticeship to develop the scheme so more people could have the opportunity to learn at the same time as getting hands-on experience.

“We are delighted to be launching the first ever train driver apprenticeship scheme alongside Aslef. At Virgin Trains we believe in giving our staff the tools to innovate and it’s great to see that one of our former apprentices has used his skills to truly shake-up the industry,” Patrick McGrath, director for human resources at Virgin Trains West Coast, said. “It’s clear that the appetite for high quality training in the rail industry is still there and we look forward to inviting the next generation of train drivers to come join us at Virgin Trains.”

Kevin Lindsay, district organiser for Aslef, added: “We welcome this joint initiative and look forward to continuing developing the driver apprenticeship scheme with Virgin West Coast Trains as this is a great opportunity to bring young people into the rail industry and particularly the driving grade.”

Find out more about careers opportunities on the Virgin Trains careers site.

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