A sustainable workforce is essential for the growth and development of any business. But, how do you ensure a business can grow and develop whilst having the confidence to engage with the inexperience of youth?

In common with much of the industry, Warwickshire-based Fenix Signalling has grappled with just that problem but feels it has come up with a solution. This is to use the skills and experience of its senior personnel, with combined industry experience of more than 100 years, to support the career development of new starters.

Since the entire rail sector is short of signalling engineers, new talent is going to have to come from outside the industry. Paul Green, the company’s Testing Manager and Coordinator, has a long commitment to the development of test and commissioning skills and has put his full energy behind the need to find the workforce of tomorrow. He commented: “Despite possessing industry professionals that boast glowing CVs and exemplary experience, we will actively encourage newcomers into the industry as well as employing young designers.”

In setting up to train its own intake of young engineers, Fenix has widened its brief and now offers training to other companies as well. This won’t be just for youngsters, as Eddie Murphy, head of projects and development, explained: “We are looking to bolster our existing unique training offering using our business model to help drive up standards across the rail industry, particularly in all aspects of signalling engineering and design. Our training is tailored for each audience to ensure they understand the safety critical issues and complexities of signalling and can anticipate and respond during tender, implementation and commissioning.

“Currently, we offer bespoke training across all sectors including civil engineering and other non-specialist companies engaged on schemes where signalling is part of the overall project. The training is delivered over three days, two days in a classroom setting – which can be on the client’s site – and one day practical work off-site looking at different interlockings and other signalling specific equipment. From this we have developed a 1.5 day course for Executive Management which has no previous exposure to the ‘black-art’ that is signalling engineering.”

Making inroads

This investment in training and people is paying off. Despite operating with a relatively small but highly-skilled team, Fenix has already caught the eye of many of the industry’s heavyweights.

The company is currently retained for the re- development of Banbury Depot, which has been derelict since the 1960s. The project, which is being delivered on behalf of Buckingham Group for Chiltern Railways, will continue into 2017. Fenix is involved in Grip 4 Single Option Signalling Development and Grip 5 Detailed Signalling Design to integrate the depot control system, made by Pintsch Tiefenbach, with Zonegreen’s depot personnel protection system and also the interface to Network Rail. The second and third phases of this project will include installation, test and commissioning.

Other clients of the fledgling business include Carillion for whom it has worked on the M8 project (relocation of bridge cabling and signal re-design), Telent Technology Services Ltd and MPI, the UK’s largest resource provider for testing and commissioning. Fenix is also talking to other industry-leading contractors at home and in Europe.

So all the hard work is starting to bear fruit. Sue Grant, head of business operations, said: “We are confident of securing a significant portfolio of work going forward. Our flexibility and ability to adapt to varying types and scales of projects, along with investment in a multifunctional expert workforce, is the key to success. For example, our professional services team brings world-wide ETCS project and product expertise that will be increasingly relevant as the new systems are introduced across the UK network.

“For that reason I believe we have a unique professional service offering.”