New learning app is helping Network Rail apprentices to succeed

Aspiring railway workers are finding the path into their new role is changing for the better

Training content is being made more accessible, engaging and effective by an app recently introduced to students on Network Rail’s apprenticeship scheme.

The importance of apprenticeships

Those who undertake an apprenticeship will learn valuable, transferable skills for life. Network Rail was voted in the top 100 Employers for the 2018-19 RateMyApprenticeship Awards, and it currently supports over 1,500 apprentices, with more than 30 apprenticeships on offer. The organisation is building its workforce to ensure success in the £50bn, five year Railway Upgrade Plan, which will see better travel for those hundreds of thousands who use the network.

The scheme is open to all ages and backgrounds and those at any point of their career path, within professional and technical fields. There’s something for all aspiring Network Rail workers, providing entry requirements are met.

The head of training strategy, Michelle Nolan-McSweeney, notes the pivotal part that apprenticeships play in bridging the gap to improving social mobility. Those who undertake such training will become the skilled employees at the heart of the company, improving the network now and in years to come.

Appy days apprentices

The Route to Safety app was rolled out in March 2018 to the 168 students in their first year of the Advanced Railway Engineering Apprenticeship Scheme, at the Westwood Training Centre.

The app was the brainchild of apprentice development manager, Tracey King, and her team. It employs gaming mechanisms, such as competition, rules and scoring, and 3D images. The concept is based on the finding that visuals are processed 60,000 times more quickly than text, and is also the result of feedback from previous colleagues, where study is made more accessible, engaging and applicable to the ultimate role within the workplace.

This is seen, for instance, through the 3D rendering of a train travelling its defined route and being subject to potential real world challenges – students have to apply the relevant aspects of the 10 Lifesaving Rules for this ‘journey to safety’ feature.

The head of Network Rail Training Route Services, Guy Wilmshurst-Smith, emphasises the importance of the app in improving compliance and application within the work environment, while increasing the retention of learned material. Students are able to choose their desired specialism within the app, so that content more closely aligns with the role they will hope to take, following the conclusion of the scheme.

Over 4,000 safety-related challenges were successfully completed within the first 12 weeks of the app being in use. With the app, students will undertake a further three days focusing on safety training during their first 20 weeks of the scheme. The app has already boosted the number of first-year engineering apprentices successfully passing written safety assignments on their first attempt.

Gamification is proving to be an effective way to encourage engagement and cultivate greater knowledge transfer, deeper learning and longer knowledge retention. Adoption of such techniques by Network Rail is indicative of the direction in which employment and learning are heading, utilising all that technology has to offer as it continues to evolve.

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