As the only female student on my course at the National College of High Speed Rail (NCHSR), I have found breaking down stereotypes to be an integral part of my education. Engineering and rail are both industries overwhelmingly dominated by men, so as much as learning about high speed rail and railway infrastructure, I have also found that my course has required growing used to being the only woman in the room.

This is something I want to help change. I know the vast talent and contribution that young women stand to make in these industries can benefit companies, passengers, and the country’s rail network, so it is essential that more women like me get involved in infrastructure projects like HS2. Through my work as a Women in Construction Ambassador, I strive to rectify the gender imbalance in this industry and hope to inspire the next generation of women to consider a career in engineering. Studying at the NCHSR isn’t the typical route to become an engineer (a job which usually requires a university degree) but times are changing and I’m excited to be at the forefront of it!

The pace of life as a student at the NCHSR has taken some getting used to. Besides lessons, assignments and exams, I am also an official Rail Leader Learner which means that I work closely with High Speed Rail Industry Leaders (HSRIL) to promote careers in rail and encourage the rail industry to develop their support and resources to invest and develop essential skills for the future. As a Rail Leader Learner, I have been interviewed by the Department for Transport and have featured in the media including; BBC, ITV, Capital FM, and FB Live. I have achieved so much since the start of my degree in September and am very proud of how far I have come. I represent the NCHSR at various open days and have even been accepted as a civil engineering apprentice with Balfour Beatty Vinci next year so I have lots to look forward to in 2018.

All in all, I love studying to become an engineer and being so involved in student life. There is always so much to learn and do, but I try and find a balance between my studies, extra-curricular commitments, and my own hobbies… it’s certainly a fine balance! For anyone considering doing a degree at the NCHSR and pursuing a career in rail, I would say that even through it requires focus, hard work and determination – it is so incredibly worthwhile. I have been very fortunate with the opportunities presented to me, and am grateful to HSRIL for their sponsorship of my course. I would encourage all young people – especially women – who are interested in engineering to also consider applying for a course at the NCHSR and to follow future Rail Leader Learner blog posts to find out how we get on.

Anesha Malhan

The National College for High Speed Rail is the largest of five national colleges being created by Government to ensure British workers learn world class skills. The college has two campuses in Birmingham and Doncaster. In conjunction with the opening of the college, HSRIL has provided bursaries for three learners, based across both campuses. Anesha is one of these learners.