07/07/16 - 16070706 - FIRST SCOTRAIL FORT WILLIAM Phil Verster welcomes Prince Edward to Fort William station

To celebrate 60 years of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE), ScotRail Modern Apprentices are taking part in a Diamond Challenge, which involves cycling 348 miles – the number of ScotRail stations.

Wessex joined ScotRail Alliance Managing Director Phil Verster at Fort William station to pedal the first mile on static bikes. A DofE Gold Award is a key target within ScotRail’s modern apprenticeship programme, with around 40 apprentices attaining the accolade since 2011. It consists of five elements, all undertaken throughout ScotRail’s apprenticeship programme: volunteering, physical, skills, expedition and residential.

Currently 11 apprentices – six engineers and five in customer service roles – are working towards the Award. The 18-month-long modern apprenticeship in customer service – a UK rail industry first – also sees apprentices work towards achieving a Level 2 Scottish Vocational Qualification in Customer Service. During the programme, they are trained, paid and given placements in frontline customer service roles – working in station booking offices, ticket gateline, ticket examiner and on-train hospitality host.

Since launched, the scheme has gained cross-party support. ScotRail also offers a four-year modern apprenticeship in engineering, which sees the young people spending their first year in full-time study before three years of training at ScotRail fleet depots. During this time, the apprentices work towards achieving an HNC in Electrical Engineering.

Engineering apprentice Elliot Lambie took part in the Diamond Challenge. He said: “It’s a privilege to be involved. I’m grateful to ScotRail for helping me work towards achieving the DofE Gold Award as it’s been a great experience, which has allowed me to develop many new skills.”

Phil Verster, ScotRail Alliance’s Managing Director, said: “I am immensely proud of all our apprentices who have worked very hard towards attaining a Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. It’s a fantastic opportunity for them to gain invaluable skills and real life experience which will stay with them forever.

“We’re committed to developing and inspiring our people so it’s fantastic to see this award-winning programme in action.”