Meet some of our award-winning apprentices

Here at TXM Plant, we know that people are the key to our success. We are invested in ensuring our people are given the opportunity to do what matters; demonstrating the strength of their skills through value-led behaviours.

Meet Olly Vanner, Plant Engineer at TXM’s Anglia Depot…

How did you get into rail?

In my early career, I started off working at an offshore oil-based company. My role was heavily mechanical based, which I enjoyed, and in my spare time I would always mess about with cars and motorbikes. I decided I needed a new challenge, and after chatting to a few of my friends who work in the rail industry my interest was piqued, and I decided to apply for TXM’s apprenticeship scheme. .

How did your apprenticeship programme progress?

I started working at TXM Plant in 2016 and achieved my NVQ Level 3 in Construction, Plant and Machine Maintenance in October 2019. Throughout the apprenticeship programme, you cover all the basics needed to become a plant mechanic, including working as part of a team, servicing and repairing machines and equipment, including replacing parts and calibrating instruments. I spent a lot of time out and about, developing my skills while completing 3-4 week blocks at college, increasing my knowledge. I learnt when completing my college work, I had to really push myself to meet my deadlines, often you need a lot of willpower to motivate yourself.

What does a typical day look like for you?

With safety at the forefront, the teams are always looking for ways to improve reliability. My day-to-day duties include repairing equipment to increase production and efficiencies, taking into account cost-effective solutions. I plan my own work, going through the run sheet and assessing worksites and access points. I spend a lot of time out in the field, which I prefer, repairing the machines and helping out the operators with any queries they have. It a high pressured role but hugely rewarding, and I find I’m still learning new things every day.

What do you enjoy about working in rail?

Rail plant isn’t common knowledge, it’s quite niche and I enjoy having that specialist knowledge. I also enjoy the schematics side of it, taking apart the elements of a system and piecing it all back together, it’s a real brain teaser and gets you thinking. There’s a lot of variety in my role, it’s not just working with standard civil machines, there’s always something different you have to overcome, whether it be an electrical fault or an engine failure, you always find yourself in a different situation so problem-solving skills are vital.

What are the biggest challenges in your role and how do you overcome them?

When starting out on the apprenticeship programme you have to adapt to working as part of a team, keeping up with them when shadowing and learning to take an analytical approach when looking for a solution. The pressure of being out in the field can be tough. Often you need to get machines up and running as soon as possible to get the job completed so time management is really important, especially when you’re travelling around the country, you need to plan ahead.

Meet Ciaran Warnes, Plant Mechanic at TXM’s Anglia Depot…

How did you get into rail?

Initially, I applied to study Sport at college in the hope of becoming a PE teacher, but I found a few months in, I wasn’t enjoying it. A lot of my friends worked in engineering, and my Dad works on the railway, so I decided to apply for TXM’s apprenticeship programme. After securing an interview, where I met the foreman and the rest of the team, as well as completing team-building exercises, I was successful and offered a role at TXM. At the time, I was actually 17, and you have to be 18 to apply for your PTS (Personal Track Safety) so in the meantime, I got to grips with working in the yard, meeting the team, and building my theory-based knowledge.

How did your apprenticeship programme progress?

I’ve been with TXM Plant for around six years now. I completed my apprenticeship in three years, achieving my NVQ Level 3 in Plant Mechanics in October 2019. At the start of the programme, I was designated to an engineer, shadowing him, understanding general maintenance. Each week I was given a checklist of things to learn and complete, which involved fixing the machines and maintaining the workshop and equipment. Alongside this, I completed 3-4 week blocks at a local college throughout the three years, building my skills and knowledge in everything from electrics to schematics. It was a really structured course where I had the chance to put the theory I learnt at college into practice in the yard, building my understanding from the other engineers. After putting in the hard work I won several awards throughout my apprentice programme including ‘TXM Apprentice of the Year’ and ‘Star of the Future’ Regional and National Level 3, awarded by the Construction Plant-hire Association (CPA), amongst many others! Prizes included everything from toolboxes to an I-pad. It was hugely rewarding to be named 1st place amongst 1000’s of nominations and just goes to show if you work hard the rewards and incentives are there.

What does a typical day look like for you?

After checking in with the foreman, understanding what the priority is for the day, my role generally involves undertaking routine inspections of engines, gearboxes, hydraulics and electrical systems. Day-to-day, I am responsible for inspecting the machines, ensuring they are safe for use by repairing and maintaining them, using specialist equipment. Quite often, you can be on call at the weekends, so you have to be ready at a moment’s notice and be prepared to pick up the phone at any time of the day to find a solution. It’s all about preference, and while it can be hard finding that work-life balance, I love what I do and the job satisfaction I get out of it.

What do you enjoy about working in rail?

I love the satisfaction of finding the fault within a machine, whether it’s an electrical fault or oil leak, and coming up with a solution. With such a wide variety of machines and attachments, no two days are ever the same. I enjoy being hands-on, getting stuck into a problem and finding a solution. I take pride in my work; it involves a lot of problem-solving, and I think you need quite an analytical mind to understand the complexities of some challenges that face you. Teamwork is essential in my role and luckily, I work with a great bunch. Two heads are better than one, it’s important to bounce ideas off one another, as someone might have different skills or an increased understanding of something. Throughout the year, if the foreman is on holiday I will step up and take on aspects of his role, delegating duties to the engineers and generally overseeing work in the yard. I enjoy the responsibility that comes with this and the respect the foreman has in me to take on his role.

What are the biggest challenges in your role and how do you overcome them?

In my role I travel around the UK frequently- this has its pros and cons. I get to travel the country and see different things every day; on the other hand, you have to be prepared to work long hours and spend quite a bit of time away from home while you’re training, especially early on. Often timing is crucial to get the machine up and running, ready to complete works. There can be a lot of pressure riding on you to get the job done quickly, so you need to keep a steady head and focus on the problem at hand.

What advice would you give to someone seeking a career in rail?

As I mentioned, my role is very hands on, so you need to be a good listener and follow instructions carefully to ensure the safety of yourself and others. You also need a lot of patience when working out on-site, talking the operators through the machine specifications and any faults that might have occurred, as no two machines are the same. I would say to any prospective apprentice out there when times get tough, keep working through it. Make sure you lean on your team for support. Don’t be afraid to speak up, no question is a stupid question! If you put the hard work in there are countless opportunities available to progress in the rail industry.