My Experience of Trains Management Development Centre

When the company announced that all DTSMs and TOSMs would have to attend a Development Centre as part of our roles changing, your union reps asked if they could attend the pilot event as observers. This request was denied and myself and another rep were booked on the first session so that we could see what they were like and advise our members. 

We attended the first Development Centre last week. I was a little sceptical, but I wanted to have as much information as possible for our members and be on a position to give you my honest opinion on the process. I'm always confident at this type of event and went into it with a positive attitude and an open mind. 
The day started with an introduction from Capita and then the exercises began. There was a 20 minute role play (with 5 minute prep time). I was told by the facilitator that he would sit in the corner assessing me. Not a great start when they company keep insisting it's not an assessment, despite what much of the paperwork has said! 
The first role play is based around an unhappy member of staff. I'm not sure how much I'm allowed to say about the particular example, but it was fairly normal stuff we deal with in our role. It wasn't a conflict situation and it didn't rely on any operational knowledge. 
There was then a long break. There were lots of long breaks. You'll spend as much time at least on breaks as in the (not) assessments. There was also a short delay because one of the (non) assessing managers knew one of the delegates they had been assigned to, so they had to get someone else to do it. 
The second role play (same timings) was a bit more challenging for me. It was based around a stakeholder. It follows on from the first role play, but I found the actor to be a bit more challenging than in the first scenario. It was okay. Not too bad. 
Then another long break before the written exercises. Two 50 minute exercises with a short break in between. I wasn't nervous at this point. I was starting to get tired, but I like written exercises. 
The person facilitating the session was very stern and it immediately felt like being back at school in an exam. The introduction made no sense to me because it was very vague and I wasn't really sure what we were supposed to be doing or how much detail was required. 
Again I'm not sure how much I'm allowed to say, but it was 'look at this data and say what you would do about x, y and z and why would you do it'. There are three subjects. I hadn't even started the third one before the time ran out and on the second one I wrote 'see previous answer' a few times. 
The final written exercise was equally confusing and by this time I was ready to run out and not come back. I contemplated not even attempting it because I was so tired and stressed by this point and there's no pass or fail, right? 
For the final exercise there is a screen and some train incidents and coverage problems are shown and you have between 2 and 6 minutes to say what you would do and why. You have a line diagram, list of spares etc. 
I think I answered most of them okay, but it wasn't really clear what they wanted us to say, whether we needed to think about the previous scenario for the next one or how much detail was needed. Also a lot of the things that I was writing down were not under the role of a DTSM or TOSM. There were things in there that service control or station staff would be required to do, so I wasn't sure whether to mention it. Also you didn't know which scenarios would be two minutes long and which would be longer. And the stern facilitator took away the clock and refused to replace it when I asked. So perhaps a wristwatch would be a good idea. 
Overall, it was a lot more difficult and stressful than I had anticipated. My advice would be take as much time as you need to read the preparation material (although I think much of it is unnecessary) before you attend. Management have committed to providing time to prepare if you need it. Management have also said that everyone must attend, but we don't know what will happen to people who refuse to go. For any more information, feel free to contact me 
Lorna Tooley - MATS Functional Rep