NS is a business where people can develop their skills in a wide variety of positions: driving trains, providing service, ensuring safety and in shops at our stations, in IT, Finance, data analytics and a range of other specialised jobs. This huge variety of activities, positions and competences generates countless opportunities for our people, contributing to our appeal as an attractive employer.
We encourage people to continuously develop themselves and to use every opportunity to learn. This ensures that they remain mobile, widely deployable and attractive as employees on the internal and external labour markets. Jobs of the future will require a range of digital and other skills, and a flexible repertoire of behaviours and new knowledge. The development of a digital and data mindset is one important prerequisite, although existing knowledge and professional expertise will need to be retained as well. This is why the world of learning is changing fast at NS. Learning at NS is more and more grounded in practical work. We are increasing our focus on regular education. We have created agile teams and widened the range of training programmes available. In learning activities at NS, the focus is shifting from preparing people to start their duties and retaining their skills to helping them improve their performance and adapt their behaviour. The NS vision for learning has six guiding principles: you learn to perform, you direct your own learning, you learn tailored to your needs, you learn on the job, you learn continuously and learning is always within reach. NS is implementing this vision with the aim of accelerating the application of new knowledge and skills. In 2019, NS invested over €21 million in training courses and other educational activities. In total, NS staff took part in 55,148 days of group training and completed 134,819 e-learning modules.
NS has developed a whole range of interventions to promote lifelong learning. Employees get professional information in their work via apps, practical guidance and mentoring. Mechanics, drivers and train guards receive their own vocational training, often through close cooperation with regular educational establishments. In our own NS Learning Centre, we maintain the professional knowledge of our employees by offering 10,560 different forms of learning, such as simulators, e-learning, apps, skills sheets and classroom learning methods. This range is constantly renewed. For example, we added 2,864 new training courses in 2019 alone.
Additionally, staff have an individual budget that they can use to make personal choices in facilities and activities relating to health and motivation at work.
New forms of learning
NS is also promoting new forms of learning, with an emphasis on learning on the job and informal learning supported by technology. Examples include the My Professional Expertise App to support staff on trains with specialised information, learning circles via WhatsApp, interactive e-learning modules and assignments on the job. In addition, we make use of Virtual Reality tools and communication platforms. In 2019, we produced the first VR application for refresher training without using physical rolling stock. Exams to test the familiarity of staff with the railway network are also being digitalised. For retail staff we provide an app that adjusts the learning content and questions to the individual users and their answers. Simulators have been taken into operation at work locations in Amsterdam and Rotterdam where drivers can practice their skills in a range of situations on the main rail network.
Focus on professional expertise
The professional skills of our drivers, chief guards, customer service employees, safety staff and mechanics remain at the heart of all our learning activities. Our basic training is the starting point, and we are increasingly involving external partners in providing it. For example, in September 2019 we entered into a partnership with MBO Amersfoort for training our chief guards. Approximately 50 train drivers joined through the Regional Training Centres in Amsterdam and Twente and STC. Within NS itself, 266 chief guards and Safety & Service staff successfully completed their basic training in 2019.
Competition and the Railways Act
In an effort to ensure sufficient knowledge and awareness of competition rules and the Railways Act among our employees, 8,482 of them took part in one of three renewed online modules about these regulations. This training is important for every employee whose daily work involves dealing with external partners and other carriers on a policy level.
Rolling stock technology and TechniekFabriek
In November we presented 80 vocational training diplomas to mechanics as part of the ‘Web op het Spoor’ programme. These were the last candidates in an eight-year programme to provide in-service training for all mechanics who did not yet have a vocational diploma. In all, 846 mechanics obtained a vocational training diploma. In anticipation of the introduction of new trains, in 2019 our mechanics completed a total of more than 13,000 train maintenance courses. At the end of 2019, 56 students were doing a two-year apprenticeship in Mechatronics at TechniekFabriek ( the ‘technology factory’), the institute for technical training where current and future train mechanics complete an intensive vocational programme. In September, 41 trainees from TechniekFabriek had already moved on to a job at NS.