Turning Around Vulnerable Young Lives Through Engineering – Derwent Valley Line CRP, Engineered Learning, and East Midlands Railway

Concept and aims

In autumn 2019, Engineered Learning and the Derwent Valley Line Community Rail Partnership discussed the  possibility of NEET (not in employment, education, or training) young people planning and delivering a community rail project, giving them opportunities to gain valuable work experience and an accredited qualification.

This resulted in a proposal to create a decorative metal archway to enhance the entrance to Duffield Station, improving the welcome to both East Midlands Railway (EMR) passengers and visitors to the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway. The project was supported by EMR, Network Rail, Community Rail Network, the Derbyshire Police & Crime Commissioners Fund, and Open Gate Trust.

What happened

The project was delayed by COVID-19 restrictions, but in March 2021, a group of eight young people were inducted onto the scheme. They took part in enrichment activities including team building exercises, a tour of Derby Station, and a rail safety talk. They also took a factfinding trip, visiting the EMR and Ecclesbourne Valley stations at Duffield, to gain inspiration for creating the arch. Finally, the group visited EMR’s Etches Park train depot to take part in personal development and careers advice sessions.

The young people created a range of design options for the arch, with the final design illustrating both heritage and modern locomotives, along with a tree and flowers to reflect the nature of the Derwent Valley Line. This image was digitised using Computer Aided Design, before being cut into stainless-steel and welded into an arch by the young people themselves. The arch was officially unveiled in June 2022.


The eight young people all achieved a Level 1 NCFE Award in Industry Specific Engineering Skills, which offered them an insight into industry requirements, as well as providing real-life workshop experiences and activities to build confidence and practical skills. Encouraged by their success, some of the group have gone back into education, with three now actively pursuing engineering as a future career choice.

Many of the group live in Derby’s Derwent ward, which is ranked among the top three per cent of the most deprived communities in the country. This project has provided them with both a qualification and practical experience in welding and fabricating, and the arch is there as a lasting legacy of the project and a feature for the community to enjoy.

The project was embraced by a wide range of community and railway stakeholders, and was selected as a social mobility case study for the Department for Transport’s Positive Support Group’s 25th anniversary event in September 2022.