Posted 12th March 2009 | 1 Comment

‘Give money to rail apprentices, not training companies’ — Pete Waterman

Pete Waterman at Railtex 2009 yesterday.

PETE Waterman — pop music impresario and railway entrepreneur — has made an impassioned plea for the Government to make money available directly to apprentices rather than to ‘a myriad’ of training companies.

Speaking at a Railnews seminar at the Railtex exhibition at Earls Court 2 in London, he said it cost £45,000 a year to employ and train apprentices — who are desperately needed for the future rail industry to replace an ageing workforce and keep work in Britain.

Pete Waterman, who runs a rail engineering company in Crewe — and has proposed it as the basis for a National Railway Skills Academy — complained that training providers received £7,000 for one-day-a-week courses, and colleges got another £7,000 for the day-release courses.

But he said employers got nothing and had to pay apprentices for the other four days of each week — plus additional costs, such as tax and national insurance, costing a total of £45,000 per apprentice per year.

With the exception of Network Rail— with what Pete Waterman called its “utterly brilliant” apprentice training scheme at Gosport, Hants, costing around £1.5 million a year — he said few railway industry companies can afford to employ apprentices.

In the past year, excluding Network Rail, only 38 apprentices had been taken on across the entire rail industry — but there were 729 companies being paid by the Government to carry out apprentice training, he said.

Pete Waterman commented that the Government was spending £3.5 billion a year through the Learning and Skills Council, adding: “This money should not go to the myriad of companies set up to do the training. It should go to the people who deserve it — the apprentices.” 

He also criticised the Government for expecting parents of youngsters under 18 to pay for their children’s training.

Pete Waterman disclosed he had spent £900,000 of his own money on training apprentices at his railway engineering business at Crewe. He said he was now prepared to take on another 20 apprentices — but only if the Government agreed to pay employers instead of universities and colleges.

He was concerned that without adequate training programmes for the rail industry, work would go increasingly to overseas companies.

And he said he had been shocked to see how many foreign firms were exhibiting at Railtex
“We are in danger of giving our rail industry away — and if we don’t train people to take on the future challenges we will have nothing to do in this country,” said Pete Waterman. “ We are now having trains made abroad to fit our loading gauge in this country and then ship them here so we just have to fit the batteries.”

He said a Railway Skills Academy was needed to replace what over 700 training companies do now.

The Academy should not be located in one place — although the HQ might be in Crewe — but where the skills were needed.  “Training in Crewe for NVQs for Crossrail would be pointless,” he explained.

“But we do need a national goal and we do need to think country-wide,” Pete Waterman added.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Mark McMahon, Blackpool

    Novus Rail Limited have a Permanent Way engineering apprentice programme funded by the company and delivered through York College.

    Make that 40 apprentices introduced to the railway industry!

    Apprentices are great as you get value for money and can mold them to be the best, so long as they get the right technical leadership.