Arranging a work experience placement is a really good way to get your first taste of working on the railway. You can arrange them through your secondary school, college or university, or you can approach the company directly to arrange a placement in your own time. In this article Louis Rawlings from Plymouth talks about his week long work experience placement placement with First Great Western in May 2011.
Getting My Placement
My work experience was at Plymouth Station, a busy hub with a multitude of services including CrossCountry services from the North of England and First Great Western services from London Paddington. Firstly I started the process by speaking to the Duty Station Manager who I knew was in charge of the work experience programme, he informed me of all the different parts to the work experience and the process involved in arranging it. Following this I was able to speak to the Work Experience coordinator at my Sixth Form who was able to arrange all of the paper work required to ensure my work experience was trouble free. Once all of the paper work was sorted, I was able to get the relevant bits signed by my parents and the Duty Station Manager. Finally after all the hard work my work experience was arranged.
On My Placement
During my placement I was involved in many duties across the station, which gave me a good taste of all the different roles and responsibilities that are available at Plymouth Station.
Ticket Barriers - Working on the ticket barriers involved supervising passengers passing in and out of the station and listening out for any ‘Seek Assistants’ alarms, upon hearing these it was important to act both promptly and effectively to ensure that barriers are not blocked for too long. A ‘Seek Assistants’ alarm means that the ticket barrier is either unable to read the magnetic strip on the ticket or the ticket is not valid, it was my job to ensure that only people with the correct tickets were allowed onto and off of the station.
Train Preparation - Train preparation involved the cleaning and placement of reservations and window labels on a terminating service to prepare it for its return journey back to London. Teamwork was important doing this role, to ensure that the train departed on time. This role was not just confined to Plymouth Station, it also involved travelling further up the line to meet the next terminating service to ensure it was clean and ready for it return journey at Plymouth in enough time to avoid any delays. While travelling back towards Plymouth on the terminating service it was my job to remove old seat reservations and window labels, ready for placement of the new ones on arrival at Plymouth.
Passenger Assistants - Passenger Assistants involves providing passengers who have booked assistants help transferring between both platforms and the station concourse. This role involved good communication skills as it was important that all of the passengers who had booked assistants got to the correct places, it was also important that this was done in a timely manner to ensure all passengers made any connecting services.
Shadowing Dispatch Team - Shadowing the Dispatch Team involved ensuring a visible presence was always within view on the platforms, this would be to ensure any passengers with queries regarding the next service had someone to ask. Upon the trains arrival it was my job to ensure passengers made full use of all available doors and then make sure they were closed fully.
Shadowing Ticket Office - Shadowing the Ticket Office involved me learning many different skills, such as all the different ticket types and also the various warrants and railcards available. I also learnt the process of which was required to book advance purchase tickets and issue railcards.
Visit to Signal Box - During my work experience I was very lucky in that I had an opportunity to visit Plymouth signal box – which controls the signalling between St Germans in the west and Totnes in the east. During my time there I learnt all the different roles of a signal box, and also saw the process in signalling trains in the local area. Furthermore I also learnt how decisions for regulating services during periods of late running were made.
How My Placement Will Help Me
My placement has helped me in a variety of ways, firstly the knowledge of which I gained over the week has further enhanced my existing knowledge, and this would not have been possible without my placement as working on the station has allowed me to see the different roles from a staff point of view. Secondly this placement has enabled me to show future employers on the railways that I have gained experience from a young age and that I know the different roles at a typical railway station. The fact I arranged my own work experience in my own time will show that I am enthusiastic about working in the industry. Finally my work experience will enhance my application to University of which I plan to study ‘Transport Management’, again the fact I arranged this placement myself will show my enthusiasm for the subject.