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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Ex-military staff urge former colleagues to consider a career in rail

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Northern staff who have served in the military claim the railway offers “a home away from home” to those who are looking for a new career after leaving the armed forces.

Ahead of Armed Forces Day on Saturday 29 June, four employees have shared their experiences of taking on rewarding and challenging jobs on the railway.

The train operator employs dozens of people who have previously worked in the military or currently serve as reservists, putting their skills and experience to use in a wide range of roles.

In 2021, Northern signed the Armed Forces Covenant, a commitment to supporting the employment of veterans and recognising military skills and qualifications across our business.

Lee Walker – A conductor based in Newcastle who left the Army in 2001 after serving as an infantry soldier with the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers for 10 years and completing tours of Bosnia and Northern Ireland.

He joined Great North Eastern Railway as a train dispatcher later that year and worked in various roles for the operator before joining Northern in 2018.

“Leaving the military is hard and it is a big adjustment. It took me a few years to adjust but I just had to get on with it,” he said.

“On the railway you find the same sort of people and they give you uniform, training, structure and a purpose.

“You’ve got to be on time, on task and following a routine, just like you do in the army.

“I would definitely recommend it to people who have left the military, it’s a great industry to work in.

Debra Park.

“People who have served in the forces bring a lot to the table so they’re definitely worth taking on. They’ve got a can-do attitude and just crack on with the job.”

Debra Park – A former conductor, who now works as a customer service assistant in the ticket office at Whitehaven station, was in the Army Reserve for 22 years before she left in 2002.

“I was a heavy goods driver, a medic and then became part of the training team and I thoroughly enjoyed it all. Even now I miss it and I made friends for life,” she said.

“A lot of people who leave the military are looking for structure and the railway offers that. You need to run to time, be disciplined and be able to take and execute orders.

“I would definitely recommend the railway to people who are leaving the forces and I think the railway benefits from having them.

“They understand that sometimes you need to stay late and go the extra mile to make sure we can get our customers where they need to go.”

Northern’s finance director, Richard Hinds, served as a platoon commander of the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment for four years before he left the military in 2000.

“Forces life is quite different to civilian life. It’s more than a job and you’re living alongside the people you work with so there is a real comradeship,” he said.

“In the railway you get some elements of civilian life, but also some elements of military life. It feels like a family and there’s a certain culture and a togetherness.

“Both are underpinned by strong values – discipline, integrity, a strong work ethic and taking pride in what you do.

“There are also lots of commonalities in the skills, knowledge and ways of working – particularly for those who come from a military engineering background and who now work in our TrainCare Centres.”

Image credit: Northern

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