Sheffield Supertram

UK: An engineering ‘skills gap’ across many sectors including light rail means there are opportunities for young people to play a major role in meeting future transport and environmental challenges, says UKTram. The industry body is developing a light rail career ‘roadmap’, and planning a series of career roadshows in schools, colleges and universities.

‘While some young people may not have yet heard about light rail, or even travelled on a tram, it really is a very diverse and rewarding sector to be a part of’, said UKTram Engineering Manager Craig O’Brien. ‘Despite being relatively small in comparison to traditional or heavy rail, many people are surprised at just how many career paths it offers, particularly for those with an interest in engineering-based roles.

‘These can include contributing to the maintenance of rolling stock or infrastructure such as track, overhead lines and bridges. There are also opportunities in project administration, health and safety and a host of specialist areas that can lead to senior management roles.’

There are also opportunities for older people. O’Brien’s light rail career started more than 14 years ago as a 31-year-old trainee within Stagecoach Supertram’s maintenance team in Sheffield.

‘I had no background in engineering at all, but through a bit of happenstance and right timing I was given the opportunity to start as an apprentice surveyor. Within five years I had progressed to infrastructure manager’, he explained. ‘I am no special case, and I firmly believe with the right support, training and above all attitude, anyone can see their career follow a similar trajectory.’

O’Brien said light rail was ‘an industry that really gets under your skin. I’ve encountered so many great people in the sector, with a real passion. You really feel a part of something bigger.’