For the second in our series on how to achieve your childhood dream jobs, we thought we’d have a look at how to become a train driver. It’s one of those jobs that so many children declare they want to do and yet so few actually go through with the idea.
What do you need to know?
Train driving is actually quite a competitive field to get into: there’s often over 300 applications for every job advertised. You don’t need specific qualifications to become a train driver but you do have to be at least 21 before you can get your licence, so companies ask that you’re 20 before you apply. And you have to live within 30 minutes of the depot so that you don’t have a long commute to get to work and turn up tired.
The money’s pretty good; you’ll start on around £17,500 while training, then once you’re qualified you can expect to earn over £30,000. And a lot of companies only ask you to work four shifts a week. I’m considering applying myself to be honest.
How can you go about it?
If you make it through the initial sift through applications you’ll be invited to an assessment centre where you’ll have to pass a number of tests.
There’s a simple mechanical comprehension test – this isn’t too hard, dust off your GCSE physics books and you should get through this easily. The real challenge is this Group Bourdon test, where you are given a page with lots of dots in groups of 3, 4, 5, and 6 in different patterns. What you have to do is mark the patterns that have four dots in. Sound simple enough? Well, not really. This is where most people fail the assessment but it’s also one of the most important parts of the assessment as it’s where they can test your concentration - obviously a crucial asset for a train driver.
If you make it through the assessment centre, you’ll have two interviews to pass before you’re offered a place on a training course for train drivers.
We had a chat with David Rudman, resource manager and recruitment guru at Southern Railway, to see what inside information he could give us on becoming a train driver. He said that the first thing he looks for is someone who has worked shifts in the past, as train drivers could be starting work at 3am and working long hours.
David said: “It’s quite life-changing because the hours are quite antisocial. But with most companies you only work a four day week. For some people that’s fantastic but for others it doesn’t work so well.”
On your application, be really clear about why train driving is your passion. David said: “We get a lot of people who say in their applications ‘my father and my grandfather were train drivers’. And that’s great for them but we want to know why you want to be a train driver.”
David did say they’re looking for a real commitment. “It costs about £80,000 to train a driver so there is a clause in the contracts that if they leave within two years of qualifying then we expect them to pay some of that back. We’re looking for someone who has been consistent in their jobs. We don’t want to pay out that money for them to leave a few months down the line.”
The most important thing of all though is to do your research. David recommends going to speak to some current train drivers or other frontline railway staff. So go on, what are you waiting for?