Network Rail is looking for four people to fill apprenticeship vacancies at its depots in Sandwell and Saltley and is encouraging more women to apply.

Many young women are missing out on a career in engineering because subject choices they made pre-GCSE mean traditional university routes are closed to them, according to Network Rail.

A rail apprenticeship can reopen those academic doors, the railway operator claims.

This National Apprenticeship Week 200 places are up for grabs across Britain on Network Rail’s advanced apprenticeship scheme for 2012.

The vacancies cover railway signalling, electrification and plant and work will involve maintenance of signal supply points, high and low voltage equipment and switchgear, air conditioning equipment, 650v signalling cable work and wiring and re-wiring of electrical relay rooms.

Network Rail is funding around 40 apprentices a year to further their education with a part-time Higher National Certificate in engineering.

The best are then supported to do foundation degrees, undergraduate degrees and reach chartered engineer status.

Former apprentice, now maintenance team leader in Rugby, Camilla Banner, aged 24, is studying for the HNC in Engineering through Network Rail.

She said: “At school it was as if there were only two options – do A levels or go to college and then on to university, but I didn’t really want to do either, particularly if I was going to get into a huge amount of debt.

“An apprenticeship appealed so much more and earning whilst learning was a real motivation.

“The HNC has been great and I want to go further and do the foundation degree and a degree in engineering – I don’t want to stop here.

“I get asked if I had to go back would I change what’s happened, and I say no – I’d definitely do the apprenticeship again.”

Qualifications with the Network Rail Advanced Apprenticeship Scheme are, an NVQ2 in Performing Engineering Operations, a BTEC National Award in Engineering, an NVQ3 in Railway Engineering, Institute of Leadership Management (ILM) Level 2 and an ILM Level 3 in First Line Management.

There is then the chance to go on and do an HNC in Engineering at Sheffield Hallam University.

Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that women get better grades at university than men with 66 per cent achieving a first or 2:1 compared to 60 per cent of men.

However, only 15 per cent of people taking engineering or technology undergraduate degrees are women.

A focus group with women on the Network Rail scheme revealed that recognised qualifications and the opportunity for further training and development were one of the main reasons they were attracted to joining the company.

* Applicants can visit  for more information.