Graduate Programme

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Colas Rail UK has an outstanding track record of graduate programmes to fill the skills gap facing the rail industry in the UK and offers global employment opportunities.

We build our own talent and develop them on fast track graduate schemes and this in turn results in loyal and passionate employees who deliver brilliantly for our customers. We can demonstrate this approach on our alliance contracts such as S&C, Wessex Capacity Alliance and the Midland Metro Alliance where it produces fantastic results.
Developing people is key to our operational success, with 25% of our leaders progressing through our Graduate Schemes.
The Graduate & Apprentice programmes we run are equally as important to closing the skills gap facing the industry. At Colas Rail UK we believe the investment made in training and development is vital to maintaining competitive advantage and we are committed to utilising training and development to ensure that every possible opportunity is available to our staff.

Leading by our values

We are one of the world’s leading providers of rail infrastructure services with a great reputation within the rail industry and the business is growing at an impressive rate. Joining Colas Rail UK is a real opportunity to establish yourself within one of the UK’s most heavily invested sectors, with a company that is going places. We have a standing tradition of developing talent and giving our graduates the opportunity to take their career in their own hands.
We are looking for bright, enthusiastic people who can work both independently and in a team. For all our Graduate Programmes we are looking for at least a 2:1 from a reputable University and the ability to stand out, by internships, university successes or extracurricular activities.
There are three main programmes that we recruit for on an annual basis:

Future Leaders Programme

A 2 year program that aims to produce high quality operational managers of the future.

Find out more

Commercial Graduate Programme

A 2 year program that aims to build our next generation team of Surveyors.

Find out more

Engineering Graduate Programme

A program that aims to focus on training a new team of skilled engineers.

Find out more
Current Graduate Schemes

Management Graduate Programme

Location: Bristol

Closing date: 17th December 2020

Apply here

Signalling Graduate Programme

Location: Swindon

Closing date: 17th December 2020

Apply here

Future Leaders Programme


To become high quality operational managers of the future.


2 year national and international programme with divisional rotations across the UK in Rail Infrastructure, Rail Services or Rail Urban. There is an opportunity for high achievers in the second year to work in Asia between our locations in Malaysia and Vietnam.

Working in the Future Leaders Programme requires a large amount of flexibility and a great team spirit. You will be working under our senior managers as a graduate trainee to complete various projects, from relaying track in the South East, working on a multi-disciplinary project such as the high profile Wessex project, or supporting delivery in our Freight or Plant team, and anything in-between. There will be a great variety in your activities, from technical work to client engagement, combined with a large amount of on-site work.

Application criteria:

We accept applications from graduates in any discipline, e.g. All forms of engineering (Civil, Mechanical, Electrical and others), Business Management, Mathematics, Geography, Quantity Surveying.

Commercial Graduate Programme


To be the next generation of commercial leaders.


2 year programme with a distinct focus on the Commercial side of our business. Here you will have the opportunity to learn and develop your skills by working towards becoming a Chartered Quantity Surveyor.

You will be working closely with our Commercial team but also the experienced operational managers and senior leaders, supporting areas such as the delivery of our pre-contract work, the management of existing and the mobilising new contracts client management in one of our divisions such as Rail Services, Rail Infrastructure or Rail Urban.

Application criteria:

We accept applications from Qualified quantity surveyors but we will also accept applications from any other discipline provided that you show interest in a commercial career in the rail industry.

Engineering Graduate Programme


To be the next generation of leading engineers.


As part of the Technical Graduate Programme you will work in a technical and operational role with a distinct focus on the engineering side of our business, working closely with our experienced engineers and senior management on improving the UK rail system in divisions such as Rail Services, Rail Infrastructure or Rail Urban.

Here, you will have the opportunity to learn and develop your skills and to work towards becoming a Chartered Engineer in one of our many disciplines: Civils & Pway (Track), Electrical, Mechanical or Civil Engineering Surveying.

Application criteria:

Individuals from engineering backgrounds with a strong desire to pursue development in the railway industry.

Recruitment process

When applying for a position within our graduate programme, your application will go through several stages. We put a guide together to ease the preparation process for you.

Stage 1

Online Application

Submit your cover letter and CV and we will ask you a few questions about why you would like to work with us.


Stage 2

Psychometric Ability Testing and Personality Testing

Possession of basic numerical and verbal reasoning skills. You can practise these skills through numerous online providers of psychometric testing.

Comprehension of self-awareness and strengths. You can learn about your strengths by completing online personality tests.


Stage 3

Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ)

OPQ is a robust psychometric test which is used for recruitment and selection, personal development and career transition.

We will be assessing you against our 5 key behaviours. Have a look at our Leadership Framework which will help you understand this.


Stage 4

Video Interview

If you are successful, you will receive an invitation to a video interview. You will have 2 minutes per question to answer 6 questions based on the Colas Rail 5E’s.


Stage 5

Assessment Centre

If you are successful you will receive an invite to Colas Rail UK assessment centre. This is where you can demonstrate your ability to show genuine enthusiasm and passion for both Colas Rail UK and the rail sector, as well as demonstrating excellent interpersonal skills and drive to succeed. You also get to meet key leaders from across our business and get a real feel for what it’s like to work for Colas Rail UK!


Final Stage

Offers made!

Colas Rail UK recruitment process can take up to two months to complete, this may seem like a long process but it’s used to ensure everyone is treated fairly.

Success stories

There is no better way to get a feel for the programme than to find out about the experiences of past graduates. Please read below what life is like after the Colas Rail UK Graduate Programme in the words of Will Bryant, Emma Parry and Munaf Ally who did extremely well as Colas Rail UK graduates.

Will Bryant

Started 2009 (Future Leaders Programme)
Discipline: Mechanical Operations Director S&C – Track

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The Colas Rail Graduate Programme has given me exposure to a variety of areas of the business, at all levels, within the rail industry. You can expect to go through three 8-month rotations, which will be across the different locations and divisions, depending on the demands of the company and the direction that your skills take you within the business.

As a graduate you need to be able to slot straight into a working environment, and have the versatility to take on individual projects or work closely in a team. You will be expected to work with all levels of management and with the client, and will be expected to contribute from day one. You will receive varied and comprehensive training throughout the programme and see a real emphasis and enthusiasm from Colas Rail for you to progress within the business.

You can expect to be exposed to a variety of the rail industry’s working environments, from large Modular Track Renewal sites, High Output Track Renewals and Ballast Cleaning Systems, various Depots, Departments and Head Offices. As you rotate through the business you will work with, and learn from, industry-leading professionals from the outset. This role will require someone who is adaptable, flexible and prepared to travel.

The Colas Rail Graduate Prorgamme has given me invaluable experience of working for a major business, and has presented me with a clear career path that promises quick progression to operational management.


Emma Parry

Started in 2012 (Future Leaders Programme)
Discipline: Civils Technical Engineer

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The graduate programme was an excellent starting block for a career in the railway industry. Having had previous experience within the Civils Industry I quickly realised there is a vast difference between the two industries. I moved around the four different rotations within the three business sectors: Track Renewals; Rail Services and Rail systems. This allowed me to see first-hand the processes and procedures that go into the planning and delivery of projects within the rail industry and exposed me to an abundance of knowledgeable people that were willing to share their knowledge and experiences.

My favourite project was working on the Pudding Mill Lane DLR realignment scheme. Colas Rail was part of a larger contract to move the DLR Pudding Mill Lane station from its current position to approximately 80m south to allow the new Crossrail Infrastructure to exit the tunnelled section and connecting with the network into Stratford. Colas Rail were contracted to install the realigning twin track that tied into the existing DLR and comprised of 300m concrete slab track over a viaduct and 400m of ballasted track. I thoroughly enjoyed working on this project. Everyday faced a new challenge and exposed me to the difficulties faced within a large construction project: the technical challenge of achieving tight tolerances throughout the installation of track, despite moving structures and other constraints; the daily negotiation with all the different disciplines involved, ensuring collaboration and safe working within a small area and the time restraints, ensuring the key milestones are met to successfully open the station following the blockade in April 2014.

Now in my permanent role, I am able to put everything I learnt over the two years into practice as Technical engineer within the Light Rail Division.

The best aspect of the programme were the opportunities that were presented to me. From a very early stage I had exposure to senior management and I felt that from day one I was gaining experience that would be crucial for my career development. I also appreciated the culture of Colas Rail in that I really felt like I was joining a family.

Since finishing the graduate programme in September I have been working as a Technical Engineer for the Light Rail division within Rail Systems. This is an exciting division to work for; offering a variety of technically demanding and interesting projects with a bright future in the rail industry, worldwide. Since finishing the programme I have completed the construction of the additional stabling works at the Tramlink Depot in Therapia Lane, Croydon. I am now working on the Modernisation of the Glasgow Underground. This involves the renewal of non-ballasted track on the ramps and turnouts within the unique system. This challenging project is currently in the design stage and will progress to construction during a 28 day blockade during summer next year.


Munaf Ally

Started 2012 (Future Leaders Programme)
Discipline: Civils Project Manager S&C Alliance

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My name is Munaf Ally and I proud to say I completed the Colas Rail Graduate Programme. Prior to joining Colas, I read for a Masters degree in Civil Engineering at UCL. I spent the last 18 months on the Colas Rail Future Leaders Programme being trained in the technical and management aspects of delivering railway projects in alliance with Network Rail. The graduate programme consists of rotations around the different business streams of the company. Given my particular interests, however, as well as the company’s requirements, I have rotated within the Track Renewals division. The rotations were broad and each brought about their own challenges. They included track maintenance with the High Output fleet of machines, planning and resourcing of on-track machines, compliance to British Standards Collaborative Working Policy, and Plant Reliability.

I feel very fortunate to have worked with a number of specialist teams. These experiences have helped me to develop a capacity to quickly adapt to new working environments, and have greatly enhanced my professional communication skills. I worked as an Assistant Project Manager (APM) for the delivery of the S&C Watford Junction Remodelling Project as part of the LNW South Conventional Team. I assisted Tom Stoddart, the Project Manager, who is a former graduate and an inspiring example to those coming through on the programme.

On a personal level, I saw that as a huge project and a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate my skills and growing confidence within the company. Being involved in projects of this magnitude was precisely why I chose to join a company of Colas Rail’s stature. My involvement as an APM was a testament to the unique Future Leaders Programme offered at Colas Rail, and also the support and guidance I received from all the staff I have worked with.

Right from the beginning the programme allowed for confidence in my abilities, which I intend to repay through strong work ethic and accountability for my work.

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Engineering Graduate Programme

A program that aims to focus on training a new team of skilled engineers.


How many graduates do you take on?

Across all 3 programmes we take on between 15 and 20 new graduates a year.

Is it possible to complete the graduate programme in one area?

In the Future Leaders Programme you will be required to move at least three times in two years, so we are looking for candidates who show flexibility in their location as by doing this you will gain the most experience across all our business streams.

When will I know where my rotation is?

The Career & Development team will meet with you every 3 months along with your current manager to discuss how you are achieving in your current rotation and at the mid rotation stage we discuss future moves, so you will always get 2-3 months’ notice of your next rotation.

Can I choose my rotation?

We cannot guarantee a placement at the location of your preference as the roles available depend on the openings in our projects and the managers demand for graduates but are flexible and offer you a choice as much as possible.

What kind of support do you provide for graduates when rotating?

Every time you rotate and change location, you will be given a moving allowance.

Can I work on my chartership during the Future Leaders Programme?

Every rotation will provide you with invaluable management and business experience that will tie back to the competencies you are looking to achieve, and in most cases technical experience needed to get chartered. Some rotations might not directly support the technical element as well as others depending on the discipline, however, we do provide support and mentoring throughout the Graduate Programme and beyond if you haven’t had the opportunity to achieve all your competency levels by the end of the programme.

I have absolutely no knowledge on engineering, can I still apply?

Yes, we do encourage applications from different disciplines for the Future Leaders Programme. If you do not have an engineering background, we will take that into account when allocating your rotations, so you will get rotations focused on the commercial or management side of our company.

What We Do

Having a thorough understanding of the rail industry and the inner workings of Colas Rail UK is a key criteria of our recruitment process. Find out more about who we are and what we do.