They could have been prisoners, or drug addicts, or just one of those youngsters who despised school.
But there’s one thing the apprentices at Intertrain have in common - they’re all ‘rough diamonds’ itching to get their hands dirty.
Intertrain on Union Street has offered railway industry apprenticeships to 16 to 25-year-olds for two years. The firm now has 160 apprentices being trained up to work for one of its 278 clients.
For some, it’s just a route into a decent career. But for others, like 21-year-old Rob Barwell, it’s been a lifeline when nobody else would give them a chance.
Rob was kicked out of school in year eight. By 16, he was working as a chef and had developed a serious drug and alcohol addiction.
“It’s not the world’s most glamorous and well-paid job,” said Rob, of Beckett Road. “You resort to crime and have your run-ins with the police.”
Following a particularly severe drug and alcohol binge, Rob ended up in a coma for two weeks. This was the wake up call he needed to get life back on track.
“I wanted an apprenticeship where I’m hands on - not in an office where I might get bored again. This apprenticeship came up at Intertrain and I told them all about my past. They gave me a chance. Looking at where some of my friends are now - most of them are in prison. The chance Intertrain have given me to train as a trackman gives me something to focus on.”
Alex Pond, operations director at Intertrain, said: “There are some little beauties that come in here and Rob is one of them.
“All the lads who come through here are rough diamonds. We have guys who have come from prison, drug addiction, fighting, and those who just haven’t been bothered. As long as they want to work in the industry and they have a smile on their face, they seem to do really well.”
Intertrain’s apprenticeship scheme offers young people the chance to get the skills and qualifications required to work in a number of sectors of the railway industry, including office-based roles.