Last week saw the completion of the second year of the “Employability Scheme” at South Tynedale Railway, Alston after a successful pilot in 2015.

Six pupils from Samuel Kings School, Alston, were chosen from ten applicants to spend a week at the railway. They worked across three strands of the organisation, being assessed against competencies; Operating, Engineering and Business.

The students enjoyed gaining experience in the shop, café, guards’ van, signal box and on the footplate – no doubt some parents would have enjoyed the same!

Their Certificate of Employability, which is to be presented by the General Manager, can be used as part of their portfolio when applying for employment. The scheme helps to fulfill the aims of South Tynedale Railway’s Youth Development Scheme* and, hopefully, offers an opportunity for participants to return to the railway as volunteers.

Here’s a snapshot of their busy week from David Baker, 14, who lives in Nenthead:

When I came here on Monday we were getting shown around and got talked through the safety procedures and what narrow gauge and standard gauge is all about …

On Tuesday we were taken over to the shop, the café, the offices, the trains, the workshops, the signal box …

On Wednesday we had to do the PTS exam in the morning… then we went to the Discovery Centre and learnt about levers and steam trains and internal combustion engines. Martin used a model to show how it all works.

Then we went to the loco shed and hauled out Barber … we all had boiler suits on and we cleaned out the fire box so the loco was ready to use. You can’t do it the same day it’s used, because it’s far too hot.

While we were there some rails were delivered and a new coach arrived…

We did some marketing with Kim in the afternoon, walking around and looking at areas such as picnic areas and shop and working out how to market them. Then later we did a booklet lay out, and put a post about the café on FB.

This afternoon I’m in the signal box with Paul learning how that works.

Tomorrow we’ll be going to Slaggyford … and we’ll get shown what’s happening there by Heather …

General Manager Heather Palmer said: “The employability scheme is designed around the STEM curriculum and we hope that some of the young people involved will be engaged by what we have here and, in addition to gaining valuable insight into a modern workplace, will join our youth group. This in turn will help feed our apprenticeships and seasonal jobs as well as our management team for the future.”

STR Youth Development Scheme has four specific aims:

•To offer to young people learning enrichment and personal development, adding value to their schooling, particularly with regard to their future employability and role as citizens.

•To develop and promote skills and interests in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (“STEM”) in the future workforce.

•To generate understanding of the STR’s role in tourism and leisure and local history and culture, creating an interest in varied types of volunteer work by a younger generation.

•To increase public understanding of rail transport, with particular reference to environmental sustainability and energy efficiency in transport.