Thales and its transport industry contemporaries are working hard to shake the image commonly associated with working on the road or railway. ‘Boring’, ‘full of old train spotters’ and a job better suited to the early 1900s are common views of working in the industry, which truly do not reflect the truth. In reality, the transport industry is a welcoming and fun environment where employees can broaden their horizons, contribute to programmes that have a lasting effect on the daily lives of everyone in the UK and build a successful career whether they are in engineering or on the business side. Despite this, encouraging young, ambitious people to take up a career in the industry is certainly more difficult than it is for some other industries.
Thales has always been an advocate of engaging young workers in the industry, and in May held a ride on a Great Western Railway train to promote the cause. The trip, which was the result of a winning bid at a rail industry charity auction, was organised to encourage those embarking on their careers within the transport industry, to engage and network with peers and senior management from similar organisations, with a view to setting up lasting relationships. Sixty four graduates, apprentices and managers from Thales, Transport for London and Kelly ITS, all of whom are involved in delivering London Underground’s Four Lines Modernisation (4LM) programme, enjoyed a meal on board Great Western Railway’s Pullman dining carriages over the course of a sunny afternoon.
The day began with a reception in the GWR lounge at Paddington Station before the passengers boarded the train, where they enjoyed a traditional Pullman lunch made with ingredients local to the GWR train routes between London and the west of England. Guests certainly made the most of the networking opportunities, with the VP of Thales’s Transport business in the UK, Alistair McPhee saying “I was so pleased to see a train carriage full of inspiring young professionals eager to learn more about each other’s organisations and meet their peers from the wider industry. It was also a really great opportunity for me and my counterparts at Kelly ITS and TfL to meet the next generation engineers and hear their insights and ideas, as well as how we as senior decision-makers can support their careers going forward. I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed the trip and was impressed by the calibre of our industry’s future leaders.”
Of course, one of the key objectives of the event was that the attendees left with an understanding of how they can grow successful careers in the transport industry with the many opportunities available to them. Elliot Kimber, Thales Bid & Project Management Graduate on 4LM, said: “This event was a great opportunity to network and share knowledge and experiences with other people within the industry. I made a lot of good contacts and it was helpful to understand from the senior director and managers how they got to where they are now and how I could apply these lessons to my role now as a graduate.”
In order to maintain the enthusiasm among the attendees that was palpable during the train ride, Thales jointly hosted a networking lunch event with TfL to reunite the graduates and apprentices to grow the strong foundations that were made during the event. Unipart also attended the lunch, extending the reach of the newly-formed network to another partner organisation to the 4LM project. Attendees heard from a variety of speakers from Thales, TfL and Kelly ITS on topics such as Innovation, Safety and how to forge a successful career. Ben Pritchard, Technical Manager, Technology and Innovation at Thales said, “Having benefited hugely from internships, graduate training and internal mobility during my career at Thales, I am always keen to share my experiences with those new to the world of work. It’s important to gain a breadth of knowledge from different teams and roles and I wanted to give the apprentices and graduates in attendance a brief overview of how I made it happen for myself, hopefully giving them some ideas on how they could make the most of the options open to them too.” Ben went on to talk about another subject he is passionate about, innovation; “For me, the variety in my career so far has enabled my success today in my role in innovation. Seeing how different areas of the business approach innovative practices has allowed me to take the most effective methodologies and use these to form my own team. Another invaluable lesson is being able to draw on the failures of other teams to avoid the same mistakes happening again – a message that I tried to impart during the networking lunch.”
Over a selection of buffet sandwiches, the attendees were able to network and talk amongst themselves. There was a real feel of collaboration and positivity during this session, with TfL Business Graduate, Katherine Howatson saying, “I really enjoyed the networking lunch event and the opportunity to hear the career stories of senior members of staff from different businesses. It’s invaluable as a graduate to hear how people have progressed in their careers and it served as a real inspiration. The networking lunch also allowed us to look back on the GWR train ride and catch up with contacts we made on the day. I think these industry links are really important especially to those starting their careers in transport. You never know where you might meet again one day!”
These networking events show that including young employees in the business’s agenda and strategy is beneficial for all parties. Not only does it give the young starters a great opportunity to engage with peers and role models, it also allows senior management to gain an insight into what they can be doing differently to retain young talent and use their input to improve business performance. Furthermore, the transport industry is brimming with knowledge and experience from those who have worked in it for decades, and it is critical for the future success of the industry for this to be shared with the younger generation.