NRC on track with new ‘rail’ programme

Northern Regional College has engaged with Translink and On Track Technicians (OTT) to deliver Northern Ireland’s first apprenticeship programme in Rail Track Engineering.

Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 3:15 pm

A Rail Track Engineering Apprenticeship has been available in England, Scotland and Wales for a number of years but until now, had not been available in Northern Ireland.

Recognising the benefits of apprenticeships in skills development for young people, local government departments engaged with the industry to promote the concept.

Fifteen apprentices have taken their first steps on to the Rail Track Apprenticeship programme. They will spend one day in class at the College’s Ballymena campus and four days with their respective employers as they work towards achieving a City & Guilds Level 2 Rail Engineering Operative Knowledge qualification and a City & Guilds Level 2 Rail Engineering Operative Competence qualification.

Pictured from left: Andrew McGivern, Translink Track Engineering Manager; Kimberly Garland, Translink Rail Track Apprentice; Daryl Irwin, Managing Director at OTT; Ben Mark, OTT Rail Track Apprentice; and Christine Brown Vice Principal Teaching and Learning at Northern Regional College.

On successful completion of the Level 2 accredited qualifications, they will have further opportunity to explore progression to the relevant Level 3 qualifications.

Patrick Wallace, Principal Lecturer for Traineeships at Northern Regional College, said: “This programme has never been delivered in Northern Ireland before and, while there are currently railway track maintenance specialists working on the railways here, we hope the introduction of this new Railway Track Apprenticeship will provide another exciting option for our students.

“The Apprentice Railway Track Technicians will develop the necessary skills and knowledge to meet specific requirements of the role by studying engineering principles, track maintenance techniques, materials technology and rail safety.”

The apprenticeship was developed through a consultation process between government bodies, regional colleges, asset owners and track engineers. As the skills involved in track engineering are specialised and did not fit into any programmes currently available in Northern Ireland, it was decided to deliver these qualifications as an apprenticeship framework to provide a recognised path into rail track engineering.

Mr Wallace said: “The strong links and open communication between Translink, OTT and the College played a key role in the development of the apprenticeship programme.”

Nineteen year-old Ben Marks, an apprentice with OTT, said the course “provided a fantastic chance to earn as you learn” whilst Translink apprentice Kimberly Garland said she saw it as an opportunity to undertake a career change.

Andrew McGivern, Track Engineering Manager at Translink, said: “These apprentices are at the start of a journey that will help them to secure qualifications that are nationally recognised.

“If they successfully complete their apprenticeship, they will have the opportunity to experience a highly challenging but rewarding career in rail track engineering.”

To learn more about the apprenticeship programmes at Northern Regional College, go to