Driving ambition

Apprentice of the Year Shauni chose a rail apprenticeship over university

12 July 2012

Shauni O’Neill opted for a Transport for London Apprenticeship and City & Guilds training instead of going to university.

Chalfont & Latimer London Underground station doesn’t feel like part of the capital’s train network. Travelling there from the centre of the city takes you past rolling fields and rural views you don’t often see from a London Underground carriage. Today Chalfont & Latimer is being run by Station Manager Shauni O’Neill, a bright 18-year-old ex-apprentice who’s rapidly climbing the ranks. 

Driving ambition

Relentlessly driven and committed to developing her skills, Shauni’s impossibly cheerful for first thing on a weekday morning. 

After completing her two-year London Underground Apprenticeship in July 2011 she was crowned London Underground Apprentice of the Year, London Apprentice of the Year and UK Apprentice of the Year 2011. Now she’s on first-name terms with London Underground directors, many of them former apprentices who jokingly comment that Shauni will soon be filling their shoes. Shauni brushes off the attention – she wants to go even further and become Commissioner of Transport for London (TfL).

Applying for an apprenticeship

Shauni started her apprenticeship by beating 7000 applicants, securing one of 15 operational apprentice positions that TfL offers each year. ‘I was 15 at the time and had only just sat my GCSEs,’ said Shauni. 

Shauni followed the route of all London Underground Operational Apprentices, studying modules in customer service, signalling, controlling, train driving and station managing. ‘My first station announcement was hilarious,’ recalls Shauni. ‘All the station staff and customers were laughing because I sounded far too happy when I was announcing severe delays.’

Continual development

As part of their career development, London Underground employees can complete online qualifications in their own time in addition to the City & Guilds Level 2 qualifications that they study for. Shauni’s ruthlessly competitive edge crops up again.

‘They’re optional units, but I’ve done 100 of them so far – that’s over 400 hours of own-time learning, not including other optional modules. I work my backside off, but I thrive on doing well.’

Shauni’s success through vocational education has buoyed her ambition to reach the very top of TfL and live a good life. ‘I want to be able to stand on my own two feet, and earning a good salary at a young age feels incredible.

‘If I went to university like many of my friends, I’d already be in lots of debt, and I’ll get the chance to have a degree paid for later in my career anyway. I feel I’ve already got the life of a 30-year-old – it’s a very happy life.’


Our research reveals that three quarters of young people demand skills-based training to achieve their ambitions Read full research article