A day in the life — Nathan Ibbotson

Date: October 2015

In the world of ADComms training and competency manager Nathan Ibbotson, there is no such thing as a typical day...

What does the average day look like for you?
I manage ADComms’ new ‘live’ rail simulator resource at our Scunthorpe training academy. One of the best things about my job is that each day is rarely like any other. Working within the rail industry brings unique challenges and problem-solving opportunities. Words like typical and ordinary don’t really apply to my role. Which is just the way I like it!

What do you like most about your job?
Meeting new people and learning new things about the industry. We’ve made our rail simulator available to the wider industry and host an increasing number of workplace training sessions and assessments. I am nearly always the person delivering the training at these sessions, but it’s amazing how much you can learn from attendees. Every day’s a school day.

If you weren’t a rail engineer, what would you be?
Who knows! My interests and personality would always draw me towards any job that involved working with people and technology, so it would definitely be in this field.

What has been your proudest achievement so far?
Playing my part in turning the concept we dreamed up internally of a modern rail telecommunications academy into a reality. In providing a training space for IRSE (Institution of Railway Signal Engineers) candidates, we are hoping to go some way to solving what is a significant industry problem – the need to gain live network experience. Our academy is the UK’s first rail telecoms training facility to provide fully operational FTN (fixed telecom network) and GSM-R reference systems in one place.

What has been your biggest career challenge so far?
All the behind the scenes work required to keep our academy going. Delivering the training is only half of the story – there are hundreds of little things that need to be checked and managed!

Any interests outside of work?
Having the peak district on my doorstep is really handy. I love the great outdoors and, most weekends, you’ll find me doing something that involves getting a bit dirty and grubby.

What are your ambitions in rail for the next 3 years?
Equally, all training should be engineering-led. Every engineering problem presents an opportunity to learn and I’d to see a tracking system introduced that brings live engineering problems into the classroom.

These are all focused around the academy. I’m keen to establish its reputation as a byword for innovation and high quality training within the industry. I’m also keen to make my mark on raising industry standards by challenging the rushed nature of training delivery. Mentorship periods are key for future skills growth – it’s not enough to just attend two-day courses here and there.

It’s key also to ensure that training is delivered by the right people - five years’ experience in rail engineering as a minimum should be the norm. Awarding bodies should start appointing true industry experts to audit training providers. Too often, these are carried out by email and phone, and as long as the fee is paid, no one seems to care about questioning competency. The industry needs to wake up and stop this from happening.

What in your view has been the biggest innovation in rail over the last 3 years?
For me, it would have to be the way that safety competencies are now managed across the industry. For example, the introduction of QR codes for industry Sentinel training cards has been really worthwhile. By scanning this in, you gain instant access to information on an individual’s safety competencies. Simple, but effective innovation.

For more information, please contact St John White or Natalia Gameson at Prova on 01926 776900.