Rail Jobs: The Transferable Skills You Need to Work in Rail

By Lindsay Warren, Principal Recruitment Specialist

This blog is perfect for engineers in another sector that are looking to get into the rolling stock industry, or Ex-Forces wanting to know more about working in rolling stock. We have outlined the four main transferable skills for rail that our clients look for during the recruitment process, so if you have ever questioned ‘what do I need to be an engineer in rail?’, keep reading to find out!

It’s no secret that there is a shortage of skills in rail. In 2015, the government announced that it was launching 30,000 new apprenticeships to train the transport workers of the future. However, as the workload increases, the need for skilled workers has never been more evident.
There are 4.7 million train journeys made each day in Great Britain, and this continues to increase. Rail passenger journeys are at their highest since the 1920’s, making it imperative that there are enough engineers employed in rolling stock maintenance to keep things running smoothly.
Rolling stock refers to the vehicles used on the railway, and the industry presents a fantastic opportunity for those with transferable skills to launch a successful career working in railway technology.

What do I need to work in rail?

So, what are those transferable skills for rail? What do employers look for when hiring? And how can you start your career in an exciting and rapidly growing rail industry?  

1. Engineering qualifications

Regardless of what industry you currently work in, you’ll be expected to hold a relevant qualification to be considered for a job within rolling stock. It’s best to focus on electrical instead of mechanical due to the change in technology on modern trains. Lindsay Warren, Principal Recruitment Specialist in rolling stock recommends:


  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering (NVQ Level 3)

  • Engineering Maintenance (NVQ Level 3)

  • Railway Engineering (NVQ Level 3)

2. Flexibility

Rolling stock jobs, particularly contract/freelance, would expect a reasonable amount of flexibility. There are large operations taking place throughout the UK but it’s unlikely that the role would be on your doorstep and so you’d have to consider working away from home. Shifts can also include nights and unsociable hours, so flexibility is a must.

3. Previous fault finding experience

If you’ve worked in an in-depth fault-finding environment you could be a perfect match for rolling stock maintenance engineering. Finding a fault, identifying the problem, fixing it and then testing is highly desirable experience. Some of the industries this could be relevant to are:


  • Armed Forces (REME, Royal Navy and RAF)

  • Automotive

  • Aviation & Aerospace

  • Factory Maintenance (production equipment including drives, motors, PLCs)

4. Adaptability

The rail industry has changed massively over the years, the ‘boys club’ stigma of old is less prominent and the rolling stock environment is more diverse than it’s ever been. Technology is also shifting to modern electrical/electronic systems as part of the evolution towards a digital railway – these factors mean that you would need to be adaptable to change if moving from a different industry.

Jobs in rail and rolling stock

Rail is growing at a rapid rate and it’s showing no sign of slowing down, so there’s never been a better time to consider rolling stock and rail engineering.

Jobs in rolling stock engineering include Technicians, Testing and Commissioning, Electrical Fitters, Mechanical Fitters, and more senior positions such as Production Managers and Engineering Managers. Click below to view jobs in rail and rolling stock.