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The good squad

Working lives - Skill shortages

To make up the shortfall of skilled rail engineers the industry is turning to a hitherto untapped source of disciplined, can-do individuals.

What the railway needs is a bit of army spit and polish, reckons recruitment consultant Dermot McGinley.

The firm he chairs, McGinley Recruitment Services, had been struggling to satisfy its clients' demand for capable engineers.

McGinley was scratching his head as to where in Britain he could find people with the right education, skills and experience for the rail industry.

His solution to the apparent impasse involved looking outside the conventional recruitment catchment.

'Hundreds of engineers leave the armed forces every year - and they all want and need a new career, ' McGinley says. 'There is a considerable overlap in skills, particularly in signalling.

'But the language of the two sectors is so different it was no real surprise that the rail industry wasn't full of ex-forces personnel, ' he explains. There was no way to correlate the achievements and qualifications of engineers in the military with those working in civvy street.

'In effect, I needed to do a translation job to enable the two sides to communicate.'

With the help of signalling managers, a skills matrix was created to match army rank or experience against an established rail grade.

McGinley has also been involved in setting up a training course in basic rail signalling, run with the armed forces' Careers Transition Partnership.

'The basic signalling course shows people leaving the military how their knowledge can be applied to the rail industry and the fundamentals of rail signalling, ' says McGinley.

'We also want employers to be able to see the massive amounts of experience and transferable skills these people can bring to the industry.'

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