GB Railfreight inspires the next generation with Back on Track


Rail freight UK

GB Railfreight is expanding its schools mentoring scheme. Back on Track launched as a pilot in Suffolk in 2022 and will be coming to Doncaster and Peterborough in 2023. The programme aims to inspire and support year 10 and 11 pupils, with advice on topics like CV writing and interview skills, as well as providing career insight into the rail freight and logisitics industries.

The pilot, which partnered with Ipswich Academy, trained 13 mentors from GBRf and some of our customers at Uniserve and OOCL. They provided a one hour mentoring session on a fortnightly basis.

Back on Track is all about opening doors to an industry which is often overlooked or only known to those with family and friends who work in the sector. By targeting areas of low economic mobility, the scheme seeks to help rebalance the UK economy by showcasing the opportunities our industry offers. Students who complete the programme are guaranteed an interview for apprenticeships at GBRf and have an opportunity to take part in paid summer internships.

Sarah Whurr, Project Lead

“When we asked most of the students at Ipswich Academy what apprenticeship/training opportunities that they knew of at GBRF they identified ‘train drivers’ but other than that they draw a blank, so this programme has been great to sell us, and our industry to help to attract new, local, and diverse talent, with a view to tackling the ageing workforce and in supporting succession planning.”

As well as seeking to support young people, Back on Track also seeks to benefit our industry by diversifying our workforce and providing training and leadership experience to early careers staff. The programme showcases that the industry offers great careers in finance, IT, commercial and HR as well as rail operations.

The pilot scheme has been a roaring success at Ipswich Academy, here’s what some of the mentors and mentees had to say.

“I thought it was an interesting experience with learning being fulfilled on both sides, it has helped to improve my confidence in communicating with other people no matter the age. I think this has the potential to be beneficial to the student in getting assistance in their next steps”

Quotes from Mentees – James, Tayon & Ella – working with Bruce Poole, Steve Grimley (Uniserve) and Megan Claydon:

“I have enjoyed getting to know my mentor, they have helped me design a CV, cover letter and shown me how to look for an apprenticeship.”

“Thank you for giving up your time to support me.”

“My mentor has been amazing, I am going to miss seeing them. Having a mentor has made me feel listened to and has helped me understand what a workplace is like.”

Quote from Victoria Addis, Careers Leader, Ipswich Academy:

“Working with GB Railfreight mentors on their back on track programme has been a positive addition to our Careers Programme. The mentors have encouraged students to think about their future pathways and individual career goals.

Their practical advice and guidance have enabled realistic conservations about the world of work and how to improve our students’ career management skills. All the mentors have been supportive, proactive and a pleasure to work with.”

The expansion of the scheme to Peterborough and Doncaster, GBRf’s other regional hubs, is already underway.  Like Ipswich, these areas have higher than average indices of social deprivation so by working here, we can have a significant impact on people’s opportunities. We see Back on Track as a way of helping the next generation with their next career move and hopefully inspiring them to take on a career in rail freight.

If you are interested in finding out more about Back on Track or want to take part in the scheme please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Sustainability Team – Volunteers for the scheme need to be based within a commutable distance to Ipswich, Doncaster or Peterborough, be able to dedicate 2 days for training, plus two hours a month consistently throughout the school year. We particularly welcome early careers staff – if you’re on an apprenticeship or graduate scheme, or only recently joined the industry, you have a lot to offer which pupils can relate to! We welcome our customers and suppliers staff joining the scheme: the more mentors we have, the more lives we can impact. We do ask that participating businesses also consider offering paid work experience and apprenticeship programmes as part of the scheme.