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From Crossrail to South Thames College, what’s it like being a rail apprentice?

To celebrate the launch of National Apprenticeship Week, 17-year-old rail apprentice Lois Medley explains what it’s like being an apprentice at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff.


I started an apprenticeship at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff in the rail team back in September 2016. After speaking to family, teachers and friends I decided to go for an apprenticeship rather than going to sixth form, and I have never looked back.

I get to see things that not a lot of 17-year-olds get to see, and the chance to work on some of the biggest transport projects in the UK, such as Crossrail. As I’m more of a practical learner, it’s proving to be much more rewarding and challenging for me than sitting in a classroom attempting to solve questions in an exam paper.

My apprenticeship has opened so many doors for me. As part of the programme, I’m currently attending South Thames College for a BTEC Level 3 Building Services course. I only have to attend college once a week to gain a qualification, and I get to spend the rest of the week in the office with my colleagues, who are fantastic mentors, learning how to design train and tube stations that millions of people will use.

By doing an apprenticeship, I’ve had more opportunities than I would have had if I went to college or sixth form. I’ve been able to visit some of the Crossrail stations my team is working on, and had the chance to venture down 40m deep rail tunnels.

The rail industry is forever developing, and it’s full of opportunities. More companies need to employ apprentices, and we as apprentices need to talk more about the benefits of apprenticeships to encourage young people, and especially young girls, to choose this route into a career.

With that in mind, I’m competing in the Brathay Apprentice Challenge to spread the news about the benefits of apprenticeships to young people through social media and in the press. Since the beginning of the challenge, I’ve returned to my former all-girl school to show them all the great things we get to work on as engineers. It’s been a great experience and I hope to have inspired some of them to join the industry.

I am very grateful for my apprenticeship with WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff and I have been greatly privileged to work with the company and see such great things already. I have achieved so much in such a little amount of time, so I can’t imagine what I will have done and achieved by the end of my apprenticeship, but I look forward to it and I can’t wait to see what my future holds.

Lois Medley is featured in today's Guardian discussing her apprenticeship with WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff. Read here

If you’d like to learn more about apprenticeships and what our apprentices are up to as part of the Brathay Apprentice Challenge please follow our two competing teams @WSP_PB_UNITY and @WSP_PB_Venture on Twitter.