Apprentices three

Golden recognition for GWR apprentice team at the start of National Apprenticeship Week

The apprentice team at Great Western Railway is celebrating golden recognition at the start of National Apprenticeship Week, while one of its shining stars has scooped a top accolade.

The team, which supervises 240 apprentices across the GWR network, received gold accreditation as part of the Investors in People ‘We invest in apprentices’ programme.

Meet Ekaterina and two of our other apprentices here:

Coach and mentor Ekaterina Cherkasenko also has plenty to celebrate after being named Higher Apprentice of the Year at Exeter College.

Gold IIP

GWR Learning and Development Manager Andrew Perry, pictured above centre, said:

“To receive gold accreditation from Investors in People really is something to be celebrated. From my perspective it’s probably the highlight of my career. It’s recognition of so much hard work by the whole team.

“We deliver our apprenticeships across 2,000 miles of the network and are pushing the boundaries to ensure our provision is up to date, challenging and future proof.”

Working in partnership with Exeter College, the train operator launched a vocational apprenticeship programme 11 years ago.

Quest apprenticeships were also introduced in 2020, enabling GWR colleagues to gain formal qualifications alongside their day-to-day roles.

Investors in People conducted an extensive assessment of the apprenticeship programmes between 1 November and 22 December last year.

It conducted an online survey with apprentices, interviewed 34 of the apprentice workforce, quizzed members of the Learning and Development team, and reviewed written material.

Investors in People said:

“The overall conclusion of this assessment is that Great Western Railway meet the ‘We invest in apprentices’ at Gold level.

“Congratulations, this is an excellent achievement for any organisation, but given the challenges facing the sector through Covid, industrial action and political uncertainty, this is exceptional.”

Ekaterina achieved a distinction in her Level 4 Coach and Assessor Quest apprenticeship, leading to her accolade at Exeter College.

A citation at the awards ceremony read:

“Ekaterina worked incredibly hard on her apprenticeship evidence and pushed herself to the limits. She demonstrated outstanding resilience and dedication to her role as a Coach and Mentor.

“Ekaterina recently spoke at a wellbeing event about all things apprenticeships and has demonstrated that she is a true ambassador for work-based learning.”

Ekaterina said:

“I am still in shock. I can’t believe I have gone and won Higher Apprentice of the Year! Yes, I have studied hard and some of the days were long and gloomy, but it feels great to share the news with my family, friends and most importantly my mentees and colleagues!”

During National Apprenticeship Week from Monday 6 to Sunday 12 February, GWR will be represented at the Apprenticeship Expo at Exeter College, while members of the apprentice team will attend stations across the network offering advice to customers and answering questions.

For more information on how to become an apprentice at GWR click here.


Ekaterina Cherkasenko

Coach and mentor Ekaterina Cherkasenko, 32, from Bristol, started her Quest apprenticeship in 2021

“I chose to do an apprenticeship as it’s an opportunity to develop myself personally for the things that I aspire to do as part of my job and hopefully help to better GWR in the future.

“It’s an opportunity to speak to some likeminded people at GWR. It’s an opportunity to prove so many people wrong and an opportunity to achieve something for yourself, rather than just as part of your job.

“There’s a lot of change happening and I want to be as equipped as I can to help people want to stay with GWR. Embrace the change and embrace the opportunity.”

Sami Ahmed

Customer service apprentice Sami Ahmed, 19, from Reading, started at GWR in August last year

“In the apprenticeship you’re interacting with customers and therefore you’re improving your skills. You meet new people, apprentices, the mentors, line managers – they are all fun to work with and meet.

“The best thing I’ve done so far is most definitely the residential course. It improved my confidence with interacting with new people, facing my fears, like heights, for example. Before I was saying I don't want to go but now that I’ve done it I’m very proud of myself

“What I would say to someone who wants to do an apprenticeship with GWR is don’t be nervous. It’s not as hard as you think, it’s not that nerve-racking because there’s lots of people to help you… the mentors… the other apprentices.”

Lewis Baston

Engineering apprentice Lewis Baston, 21, from Swindon, started at GWR in 2021

“I’ve always wanted an apprenticeship since leaving school and I knew an office job wasn’t really for me – I wanted it to be a lot more hands-on.

“Some days I’m in college doing my level 2 and level 3 engineering operative and the other days I’m in the depot learning. Every day is different, so we might have a failure with the doors or we might have an engine change. If there’s a new job I’ve not done before I’ll go on that and learn from someone else.

“The best thing about the apprenticeship is the support you get. There’s always a lot of people who really want to help you to learn. And there’s a lot of opportunities beyond the apprenticeship as well.

“If someone was thinking about applying for an apprenticeship here I would definitely push them to do it, 100%.”

Contact Information

John Carter

Media and Communications Manager

Great Western Railway

0845 410 4444

Notes to editors

First Greater Western Limited, trading as “Great Western Railway” (GWR), operates trains across the Great Western franchise area, which includes South Wales, the West Country, the Cotswolds, across southern England and into London. GWR provides high speed, commuter, regional and branch line train services, and before the covid-19 pandemic helped over 100 million passengers reach their destinations every year. GWR has been awarded a National Rail Contract to continue operating the Great Western network, which shall run up to 21 June 2025, with the potential for a further three years at the Secretary of State’s discretion. Find out more here: