Young engineer urges youngsters to consider a career in rail

"Once people join the industry they never leave" - Kate Wilson.

Kate Wilson, a trainee track design engineer at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff in Birmingham, is urging young people to consider a career in rail after she moved into the industry as a career change, having spent more than ten years in health and fitness. Her call coincides with Rail Week – a week dedicated to addressing the skills shortage in the rail industry through raising awareness among students, teachers and careers advisors – which takes place this week, from 27 June to 3 July.

Wilson, 28, has worked in her role for two years, having been seconded from Network Rail. She said: “I spent ten years in the fitness industry and although fitness was one of my biggest passions, I found I wanted something more challenging and less predictable than the industry could offer me. I also was living with a health issue that which was getting harder to manage in an environment that required me to be fit enough to teach and train people. With the industry becoming more saturated, I felt it was time for a career change.  

“After watching various documentaries on the railway I knew this was the industry I wanted to get into, but didn't quite know how to and what I wanted to do. After searching for jobs in rail I finally came across the trainee track design engineer position. After taking various assessments to ensure my suitability, I was offered the job, and the opportunity to be trained. I have been studying part-time for a railway engineering degree at Sheffield Hallam University, whilst working full-time in the design house on live projects at the same time,” she added.

Since joining WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, Wilson has been involved in a number of railway projects ranging from feasibility studies and designs right through to platform gauge surveys, maintenance and renewals. She has worked on and contributed to the East West Rail (ERW) project, to improve rail services with the re-establishment of a rail link between Cambridge and Oxford, with enhanced connections to national mainline rail services. She has also been involved in the Coventry Upgrade feasibility study, producing high-level track layout options. 

“Each project is completely different, keeping it fresh and interesting,” said Wilson. “I feel I am constantly learning and challenging myself. I would definitely urge people to consider a career in the rail industry - with a massive shortage of skilled engineers, and so many big projects going ahead, there are plenty of opportunities and exciting times ahead. It is definitely the right time to join the industry. One thing I’ve noticed is that once people join the industry, they never leave, which says a lot!”

The Rail Week initiative is the brainchild of Young Rail Professionals and is backed by leading rail organisations such as Network Rail, Transport for London, the Department for Transport and the National Skills Academy for Rail. Additionally, more than 50 companies are joining forces to deliver rail events across the country. 

In September, Wilson will be taken on by WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff as assistant track design engineer whilst studying further for her masters at Birmingham University, in Railway Systems and Integration Engineering, so she can eventually become a chartered engineer. 

Click here for further information about Rail Week.

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