A recent survey carried out by the Young Rail Professionals (YRP) at Birmingham University revealed that only 8% of engineering graduates would consider a career in rail. This despite Birmingham having a dedicated rail research centre. It is perhaps not surprising given that the sector has done little very over the years to manage its image as an industry.

There is some good work going on throughout the industry, delivered by a variety of organisations. This include talks to schools and university students, inclusion in broader initiatives such as WISE (Women in Science, Technology & Engineering) and open days where businesses open their doors to the public.

At a more structured level, YRP have an ambassador network covering the whole of GB. The programme mostly targets those at universities studying for engineering degrees. However, activity is undertaken by YRP members in their own time, and demand for outreach activity is outweighing their ability to supply. YRP has also organised a national ‘open day’ where a selection of the industry's organisations opened their doors to schools and universities.

As an example, Abellio Greater Anglia took a specific school from Colchester to their training academy in Stratford. Children were given a tour, watched the RIR video, and had a go on the train simulators. 

Most medium to large businesses in the industry also have a diversity and inclusion policy or strategy. These outline their plans to support women, disabled, and ethnic minority groups within the workplace. Network Rail’s strategy is a great example of work currently being undertaken. The strategy is comprehensive and covers a wide range of focus areas. These aim both to create supportive environments for under-represented groups, and to increase their numbers within its business.

However, changing the image of the industry will need concerted and collaborative action at the industry level. As part of the Rail Sector Skills Delivery Plan, a Promotion and Attraction programme aims to do just that by building on the work already underway in three areas.

The image that the industry has among those entering the workplace will be bolstered by capitalising on work already undertaken by RDG. On top of this social media and digital platforms will be used to communicate targeted messages to intended audiences, and also monitor impact.

The regional engagement workstream will expand on the YRP strategy to cover all intended audiences. Promotion and attraction material will be developed for each of target audience. Regional Outreach Coordinators willl manage sector outreach activities and build relationships at regional levels.

Finally, the workstream to increase diversity will expand on the Network Rail Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and push this industry wide. It will also develop extra policies to support women, BAME groups, and the disabled in the workplace to retain these people in the industry. 

What outcomes?

Intended outcomes are to position rail as a high-tech, dynamic, and diverse industry—and a great place to build a career.


Supporting the economy, optimising the railway, being an employer of choice.

Asset / operations

Asset and operations

Organisation type

Cross industry