What’s it really like be on the Electrical Engineering graduate scheme at Transport for London?

There are several routes into Transport for London including entry-level roles, apprenticeships and graduate schemes. Electrical Engineer Lakshan tells Plotr about his experience of the graduate scheme with Transport for London.

After Lakshan graduated, he worked for a lifts and escalator company. He was a document controller but wanted work for a company that would allow him to develop his skills as an engineer. After successfully applying for the TfL electrical engineering graduate scheme, now he’s an engineer and loving it!

Tell us about your job…

I’m on the Electrical Engineering Graduate Scheme at Transport For London. I do three-month placements in different departments in London Underground. So far I’ve done placements in signalling, stations engineering (building services) and power engineering.

During my first few weeks on the graduate scheme, I was given a thorough week-long induction. We met fellow new graduates and visited various TfL sites, taking part in activities and challenges to gain an appreciation of what TfL is really about.

After the induction, we were given another thorough week-long engineering induction. This time we visited depots and engineering projects in order to gain an appreciation of engineering activities at TfL.

Here are some of the sites we visited:

  • The Emergency Response Unit (ERU) - they’re the unsung heroes of TfL/London Underground!
  • Neasden Depot – this helped me gain an appreciation of how S-Stock trains are maintained
  • Neasden Service Control Centre – it was just like being in an airport traffic control centre, but with trains instead of airplanes.
  • London Transport Museum – here’s where I got to appreciate how transport has evolved in London.

After the inductions, we were put on Customer Service Assistant (CSA) training and Train Operator training. After the CSA training, I was sent to Westminster station to be a CSA for a week (one of the busiest stations in London and one of the busiest weeks of my life!). Then I shadowed an instructor operator on the Bakerloo Line for two days.

What are the best bits about your job?

The most fun and interesting part of my job is going out on the railway to see stuff! It’s great to see stuff you’re working on instead of being stuck behind a desk all day every week.

As a graduate at TfL, you’re encouraged to become a STEM Ambassador. This means we get to go to schools and promote STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to young students and inspire them to have a career related to STEM.

Visit the Plotr STEM careers zone and discover more about young people working in STEM.

Finally, the work we all do at TfL contributes to making London a better city and improves the lives of those living, working and visiting London. Knowing this makes working as an electrical engineer and at TfL rather rewarding.

What top skills or qualities are important in your job?

Technical knowledge is always a must for any engineer but there are many skills that you need to be a good engineer.

Teamwork – I knew teamwork played an important part in engineering. But having worked at TfL for the past 18 months and working in various departments made me realise how important teamwork really is when it comes to overcoming challenges when working on all sorts of projects, big or small.

What training or courses did you do to get to where you are today?

I’ve been on various training courses since joining the graduate scheme, from improving your soft skills to technical training. The wide variety of soft skill training courses I’ve been on include everything from report writing to learning how to influence people. These internal training courses are all extremely fun to go on - the trainers make sure you have a good time and you learn at the same time. You get to meet all kinds of people from around the business when you’re on training and it’s a great place to network as well.

I went on one week-long Signalling Principles Training course, which was great fun and we learnt the basics of signalling principles. I would definitely love to go on the four week-long course in the near future!

What advice would you give someone who wants to do your job?

Don’t focus on being an expert technically. You need to improve and develop and gain your soft skills too!

Have a can-do attitude. Any exposure is good exposure. Being on the graduate scheme is a great opportunity to learn and be exposed to different areas of the network. If you’re working on a particular project, get out and see what you’re working on. Don’t be stuck behind the desk.

Any job-hunting tips to share?

Extra curricular activities are key. The range of skills you gain from doing extra curricular activities are vast. Put these down on your CV and demonstrate what skills you’ve gained from taking part in these activities. It gives you something to talk about in your interview other than what you’ve done in your university degree.

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