This year’s overall winner of the Best Traineeship was ProRail, led by Tim Burgraaf as their Trainee Manager. Currently (May 2023), they have 22 trainees, and with a focus on sustainability and society, applicants are excited by the opportunities offered by ProRail, and the high standard of training they receive.
This incredibly motivated and engaging team also took out the award for Return on Investment, with our judges noting that they have a high level of retention of their trainees. Trainees are actively encouraged to move through the company, showing how much value they place on their investment in their training.
The Best Traineeship team sat down with Tim after the competition to talk about winning, insights, and what motivates them.
Congratulations on winning the Overall Best Traineeship, Tim! How does it feel to take out the Return on Investment and Overall Best Traineeship awards?
I’m very proud of this achievement! ProRail’s traineeship program is now 20 years old, and this recognition is rewarding for us. It’s acknowledgement for the time and money we have invested in creating our program, and that it now is recognized as being a great traineeship program.
We’re also extremely proud of the high retention rate that we have with our trainees – this means that we are retaining the talent that we have worked so hard to train to a high standard, and this benefits us greatly.
On a personal note, I have managed the traineeship program now for the past 3 years, so this feels like the crowning jewel on that achievement for me!
In your opinion, what elements of your traineeship are you most proud of and that make ProRail stand out to win both of these awards?
I believe that what makes us stand out is the element of co-creation. Our learning program is developed by the training company we use, the trainee manager, and most importantly, the trainees themselves. We use an established template, but the trainees have input into all the theory, their learning opportunities and have a direct influence on their training program.
While we have 4 different areas of specialization, all the trainees work together, learn together, respect each other, and spend time together out of work – they’re a close group that strengthens their traineeships.
While our trainees come from different backgrouns, we actively encourage them to be themselves within the company, and we have firm diversity and inclusion policies within the program.
Another exciting element is the growth of trainees. Mentorship programs are vital for our company, and we watch trainees grow, with older trainees mentoring and helping them develop within their roles. Trainees have a dedicated buddy and a mentor, and we think this strengthens our program. Our trainees are a whole team effort.
We’d like to understand more more about your use of the C-Suite in the traineeship program. How do you use it to ensure that the trainees grow and flourish?
C-Suite is our hiring management program. Trainees have a mentor for their 2-year journey, either a board member or buddy and meet every 3-4 weeks. It’s close internal contact, and they get to know each other, their learning style and potential, and their next steps with their training.
The C-suite members also use this moment to develop the program further. They have opportunities to meet the board and explore and discuss different things – and trainees get to know the directors closely, meaning that trainees are utilized across the company at all times.
Why is keeping a “fresh pair of eyes on things” within your traineeships relevant?
Changing your perspective and being open to new ideas is always relevant. We don’t have any competitors, so it’s probably more essential for us to take on new perspectives and have the status quo challenged. It’s not only with our trainees – you can constantly challenge how things are done and learn in new areas.
Our younger trainees want to have an impact. These are our fresh eyes, and they want to do everything meaning that the older established teams have an injection of energy to inspire them.
Innovation and experience from other industries can also positively impact how things are done – that’s why bringing in external expertise is essential.
What key learning points have you taken away from the Benchmark Survey and the Jury Feedback? Can you share how you’ll be integrating these into your traineeship?
We’ve already discussed the benchmark report extensively internally. We’ve already talked with our training company, and we’re looking for ways to improve our learning and development element. We can use this direction for short, and longer-term changes.
We also see that we are limited in international experience options, but we are utilizing this feedback to improve this and increase the opportunity for cross-border experiences.
We didn’t realize that the trainees weren’t aware of how to utilize personal branding. We are now focussing on this, running additional training, and making things more efficient and intelligent. Concerning all the feedback in the report, we’re now making comparisons internally to ensure we’re measuring all the right metrics.
What are the most crucial benefits of the awards for anyone participating in the survey and competition, and what are the benefits to ProRail?
We can say in 2022, we were the best traineeship, so why shouldn’t you apply for a traineeship with us! This recognition is something that we will use when we’re recruiting trainees.
We see the report as the most crucial benefit. We can further develop our traineeship program, not only based on our trainees but the input of other trainees from other programs. That makes it relevant for trainees – they see the recognition of us being the best and that we use that information to grow.
What words do you have for future applications to the annual competition?
For starters, knowing how your trainees experience the program and comparing it with how you think it is going is beneficial. You understand better where the improvement potential is, and that’s great.
It’s also cool to see how your trainees pitch and perform and how you’re training them – but learn how other trainee managers work, establish a network of like-minded people, and learn from each other.
I spoke with the program manager for Enexis – and linked her to my new colleague – and we have exciting elements and want to learn from each other.
Of course, you have to make it to the final to meet them all, so it will be exciting to see who comes through next year, and how we can work together in the future.
The team at Best Traineeship would like to thank Tim Burgraaf and ProRail for their time in answering our questions, and take another moment to congratulate them on their Return On Investment award and taking out the overall Best Traineeship in 2022. Please find out more about our 2022 winners here.