A SAIT grad’s career in the railways | So Good News


SAIT railway conductor alumna Toni Nicolas
Toni Nicolas and the track less traveled.

What happens in the railways affects all Canadians. If the shelves at Calgary’s grocery and favorite stores are full, you can probably thank a smooth (rail) operator.

Working in rail means you play a critical role in the proper functioning of Canada’s supply chain. The country is heavily dependent on railways to get grain and goods across the country and to port, making trains essential to a strong economy.

Working on the railroad pays you to travel from the Northwest Territories down to New Mexico, and see parts of North America from a completely different perspective.

“Tracks go through forests, mountains, tunnels and places that people driving don’t get to experience,” says Jason Purdy, chair of SAIT’s Railway Conductor certificate program.

A program built for success

Taking the newly revamped 12-week Rail Conductor Certificate will give you the skills you need to succeed as a train conductor. In addition, we connect you to the industry and help you secure a job.

Consider Toni Nicolas, a 2017 graduate, as an example.

She found out about the program through a recruiter, who told her she should consider the certificate to boost her resume. She knew general things about trains and the journeys she wanted to make, but the program taught her what she didn’t know, with a hands-on, hands-on education. Toni learned about train switching and marshalling (how you break up and place the different cars on a train), the physical aspect of the work (there is walking, climbing and heavy lifting involved), how to communicate clearly via radio and the importance of safety. Instruction in the program is combined with real-world examples to highlight reasons for the rulebook.

The benefits of a railroad job

Working in railways has proved beneficial for Toni.

“I will always be grateful that this industry has paid well enough in a job that I really enjoy while being able to support myself and my son much more easily than I would in other fields of work,” she says.

Each and every one of Toni’s classmates was given the opportunity to apply, interview and test for major railway companies such as Canadian National Railway (CN) and Canadian Pacific Railways (CP), many were given job opportunities to pursue upon completion of the program.

To do well, you have to be someone who can roll with the punches and adapt to changing circumstances, says Toni. You can work at different times every day and in all kinds of weather.

It is also possible to move around to different roles. From changing cars to locomotive maintenance, Toni’s journey has been varied. Over the past three years, her confidence has developed as she has taken on various roles including conductor, train driver and supervisor.

Although she enjoys her job, Toni is also grateful for the balance it helps provide.

“I’m very fortunate to have been employed by a company that allows me to put my family first, so having my schedule align with those around me is a huge priority,” she says. When Toni isn’t at work, she spends it with her family — biking, hiking, or running through backyard sprinklers.

Canada’s growing rail industry

CP recently acquired the Kansas City Southern Railway, expanding service to eastern Canada and US ports. CN also announced a major investment in the provinces of British Columbia ($390 million), Saskatchewan ($185 million), Manitoba ($160 million) and Ontario ($430 million). This growth will also mean more jobs, and the Railway Conductor program provides a foot into those opportunities.

Industry driven

We prepare students for successful careers and lives.

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