Services used: Professional skills development
West Midlands Trains is the parent company of West Midlands Railway and London Northwestern Railway. West Midlands Railway services operate to destinations across the West Midlands. London Northwestern Railway services operate between Liverpool and Birmingham and along the West Coast Main Line to and from London Euston. West Midlands Trains prides itself on providing a great travel experience for its customers, who can expect a high standard of service from the moment they board their trains.
Every year, West Midlands Trains onboard four – six engineering apprentices who study at college whilst gaining hands-on experience with the company’s different engineering teams. Whilst apprentices are assigned a manager who supports them with their daily tasks, West Midlands Trains wanted to enhance their experience to ensure they were thoroughly prepared for professional life on the railways, ensuring they could achieve their potential in the future. It was agreed that establishing a mentoring programme could support this ambition; however, many of the engineers who volunteered had never been a mentor before.
CAPE worked collaboratively with the project lead to design a bespoke one-day workshop for West Midlands Trains to bring together the new mentors and equip them with the practical and personable skills they needed to be effective mentors.
We provided a safe space for the engineers to explore what mentoring is and how it might differ from other development initiatives. We discussed the essential skills needed to be an effective mentor and helped them put these into practice using several interactive activities, including practice conversations. To ensure the mentors were supported after the workshop, we provided a straightforward mentoring framework to help them structure their conversations with mentees. We also facilitated discussions about what internal resources and processes they could use to support their mentoring.
Three months after the initial workshop, we held a follow-up session with the mentors to enable them to share how they were getting on. By discussing their challenges and successes, the mentors were able to learn from one another’s experiences and identify areas for improvement to enhance their mentoring.
Following the workshop and follow-up session, mentors confirmed they felt much more confident having conversations with mentees. This was because they could now use key coaching skills like empathy, active listening and curiosity effectively. They knew that their role not only included sharing experiences and giving advice but also providing a supportive thinking space for the mentee to overcome challenges. They could also identify their own career highlights, lowlights and transitions, which not only enhanced the mentees’ experience but also allowed the mentors to reflect on and develop their careers.
The West Midlands Trains mentoring programme continues today and successfully supports engineer apprentices in achieving their qualifications and putting them on the right track to excel in their careers.