SPL Powerlines: Rejuvenating the Rail Workforce

Lee Pounder, Regional Director – Scotland at SPL Powerlines UK said: “It’s a well-known secret that the general railway workforce has a challenge going forward. There is an ageing demographic which will shortly leave a number of skilled roles open. Without appropriate succession planning, there is a distinct possibility that we will have a skill shortage in the coming years. 

“SPL Powerlines, alongside our industry colleagues, has identified, and is actively promoting, the need to invest in recruiting and training the next generation of railway workers.” 

He said some of the challenges facing the railway industry are for it to create a more diverse workforce. “Recent studies have shown there are other industries described as being more popular for the younger workforce,” he said. “So the railway industry has a lot to do to regenerate and promote the excellent opportunities that are on offer. The younger workforce requirements are now different to what we are traditionally used to so it’s important that businesses adapt their offerings to continue to attract new talent.” 

This ethos is something that SPL Powerlines is embracing. There are multiple entry levels for the railway. 

“This is what makes it so exciting,” said Lee. “SPL Powerlines continues to recruit the next generation into the railway through our STEM engagements and longstanding relationships with local schools, colleges and universities across the region. In addition to regular STEM engagement, we also attend career fairs and assist with mock interviews and placements to encourage new recruits.” 

SPL Powerlines runs a successful undergraduate scheme which sees engineers and quantity surveyors blend their academic learning alongside on the job learning. The company has seen a number of its employees graduate from various university courses using this method. 

Oliver James is a trainee quantity surveyor at SPL Powerlines. He joined the company as an apprentice to gain valuable work experience whilst also working towards his degree in quantity surveying. 

He said: “This will put me in a strong position on completion of my studies, as I will have four years’ work experience to my name. I’m enjoying having the ability to apply my knowledge from the workplace into my university studies and vice versa. I believe it gives me an advantage over full-time students working towards similar degrees. 

“I would recommend an apprenticeship to anyone. You can earn money, work experience, and a degree all at the same time which will give you all the tools for a career in your chosen area of interest on completion of your studies.” 

SPL Powerlines apprenticeship schemes includes a Trainees Linesperson Programme which is an intensive 16-week course including modules such as PTS (personal track safety) training, OLEC 1 and 2 training, DCCR (DC conductor rail) training, slinger training, MEWP operations, emergency first aid and working at heights. 

Each person enrolled onto the programme has access to multiple mentors experienced within the field. Additionally, a buddy system allows each trainee to be partnered with an experienced linesperson to shadow and provide additional support. 

Cameron Strain chose a graduate apprenticeship programme in engineering (design and manufacture).

He said: “I decided to join the graduate apprenticeship scheme at SPL Powerlines as I was interested in the overhead line systems in the Scottish Railway and with my background in electrical engineering, through completion of my HND, I thought this would be a great next step. Another winning factor is that I am able to attend university to complete a bachelor’s degree with honours, whilst getting hands-on experience in engineering. The work experience is really good, I get to learn about how OLE systems work on site whilst also learning the engineering side of OLE desk based. 

“I’ve also gained further learning by gaining my PTS, OLEC 1, and OLEC 2. I’m very much enjoying the rail sector, the main thing I like about it is how vast it is and with lots of interesting and different disciplines within the sector. I like how much there is to learn, and I would recommend this course to anyone thinking of doing an apprenticeship, especially with SPL Powerlines as it can give you a great opportunity to work in the sector.” 

Lee Pounder concluded: “The Net Zero mandate is a massive part of the railway, so I’d love to see the railway workforce be part of the generational modal shift and leave a legacy for future generations. 

“When you join the rail industry in Scotland, you soon learn that it really is one big family. The relationships that you form on day one will last a lifetime. It’s amazing to see how many passionate and committed people there are working on the railway. You may occasionally change your company however the people remain.” 

To find out more about a career with SPL Powerlines UK email: jobs(at)powerlines-group.com