A day in the life of a SYSTRA apprentice - Jason Munslow
It’s not often that you receive a short-notice summons to the palace of Westminster, but it happened to me just a few weeks ago.
It was not, however, a desperate plea from Theresa to come and sort out our relationship with Europe – I was told that I’d been nominated as the National College for High Speed Rail (NCHSR) Apprentice of the year, and that I, along with my line manager Andy Gubbins, were to attend a parliamentary reception.
I’ve been attending the college since it first opened in October 2017, it offers a unique set of rail-focused courses. Being first introduced to me by a relative at HS2, the employer support offered by the college was a major factor in persuading me to take up an apprenticeship rather than university degree. The Level 5 Operations and Management apprenticeship was my choice and it has already given me the opportunity to develop my skills in presentation, organisation and professionalism.
With plenty to organise, event day came around very quickly and I soon found myself onboard the 11:50 train direct to Euston. Distracted only by a quick visit to the shop, the journey time was well spent discussing professional development with Andy and soon enough we were stepping out onto the streets of the capital.
Upon arrival, I learnt just how ruthless our famous capital can be…
As we approached the tube, we were approached by a confused traveller on the underground platform. Despite likely knowing less about the city than they did, we stopped to offer our help. Having opted to stand and help, Andy speedily answered the question and boarded the tube. In just a matter of seconds, the doors began to close. It was too late; I could only watch as the train moved away, taking my bewildered manager with it.
Effective communication and clever planning ensured that we could rendezvous at our final stop, however, upon emerging from the tube station we were met by crowds of tourists who had travelled to view the awards reception. It’s possible that they were also there for some princess’ wedding day, but I doubt it.
Entering Westminster was an interesting experience. A full airport immigration process is bolstered by a balcony manned by three machine gun-wielding police officers – the type who like to stare but not smile. Other than being questioned over a bottle opener on my keys, we passed through smoothly and were led into one of the most impressive buildings I’ve ever seen. Walking through the halls, it was clear to see that no expense had been spared and thinking of the decisions been made around us was enough to send a chill up your spine.
After weaving our way through several grand corridors, we were told to wait until the room had been prepared, and as far as waiting rooms go, this was different to say the least….
In limbo between the House of Commons and the House of Lords, we waited to be called through. Right on time the crowds were ushered into the room, visitors from Parliament, HS2 and other reputable companies were on hand to give their views on the college and future aspirations.
The awards ceremony began with the right honourable Dame Rosie Winterton MP given the duties of presenting. As she announced the results in reverse order I was announced as runner up, whilst not the winner, both my line manager and I were extremely proud of my achievement.
It was a hugely enjoyable experience with excellent guest speakers, networking opportunities and not forgetting a good supply of free drinks and canapes. An experience I have already shared many times, and unlikely to ever forget. I would not have been able to experience this without the apprenticeship opportunity SYSTRA gave me and the work and dedication of the National College for High Speed Rail and its employees.