Rail (UK)

Skills short­age

- Ste­fanie Foster Deputy Edi­tor ste­fanie.foster@bauer­me­dia.co.uk @ste­fa­trail Business · Career · European Union · United Kingdom · Martin · City and Guilds of London Institute

…but new ma­jor projects are at risk if crit­i­cal skills short­ages in the rail in­dus­try are not ad­dressed.

CRIT­I­CAL skills short­ages in the rail in­dus­try are putting the suc­cess of new ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture projects at risk, ac­cord­ing to re­search by the Na­tional Skills Academy for Rail (NSAR) and City & Guilds.

The Back on Track re­port, which was launched on Novem­ber 23 ahead of the Na­tional In­fra­struc­ture Strat­egy launch two days later (see sep­a­rate story), re­veals that ap­prox­i­mately 120,000 more peo­ple need to join the rail work­force within the next decade in or­der to meet the skills de­mand, across a range of roles.

The rail sec­tor’s age­ing work­force (28% of work­ers are over 50 years old) means that about 15,000 peo­ple could re­tire from the in­dus­try by 2025. Brexit is also ex­pected to re­duce the ac­cess to over­seas work­ers, with the pro­por­tion of EU work­ers al­ready drop­ping from 17% to 15% between 2016 and 2018.

Ex­ac­er­bat­ing the prob­lem is that the rail­way con­tin­ues to strug­gle to at­tract and train new peo­ple, with only a third of re­spon­dents to a YouGov sur­vey of 1,532 UK adults say­ing that they would con­sider a ca­reer in the sec­tor.

The re­sults also high­lighted the con­tin­u­ing chal­lenge to re­cruit from a di­verse back­ground:

■ Just 16% of the cur­rent rail work­force is fe­male and only 24% of women would con­sider a ca­reer in rail, com­pared with 41% of men.

■ 26% of 18 to 24-year-olds say they would con­sider a ca­reer in rail, com­pared with 39% of 35 to 44-year-olds.

■ 27% of peo­ple from a Black, Asian and Mi­nor­ity Eth­nic (BAME) back­ground would con­sider work­ing in rail, com­pared with 32% of white peo­ple.

“The UK rail in­dus­try is on the cusp of lead­ing a once-in-a-gen­er­a­tion in­fra­struc­ture revo­lu­tion, with the po­ten­tial to cre­ate thou­sands of high-qual­ity jobs across the coun­try at a time when they are needed most,” said Martin Hot­tass, Manag­ing Direc­tor - Tech­ni­cal Train­ing at City & Guilds Group.

“How­ever, the dual blow of Brexit and a re­tire­ment cliff edge, in ad­di­tion to sys­temic is­sues around grow­ing and re­tain­ing skills, means that un­less Govern­ment, em­ploy­ers and in­dus­tries work to­gether to ur­gently ad­dresses these is­sues, they risk scup­per­ing this golden op­por­tu­nity.”

NSAR Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer

Neil Robert­son said: “As we look to in­vest in new tal­ent to fill fu­ture skills gaps in the rail in­dus­try, it’s im­por­tant to note that we also have a valu­able op­por­tu­nity to im­prove so­cial mo­bil­ity across the UK.

“By hir­ing peo­ple from a wide range of back­grounds and re­gions, and equip­ping them with qual­ity skills and ca­reer pro­gres­sion, we can en­sure that these in­fra­struc­ture projects not only cre­ate jobs, but also pro­mote pos­i­tive so­cioe­co­nomic change.”

The re­port makes a num­ber of rec­om­men­da­tions to ad­dress the skills chal­lenge “be­fore it’s too late”, in­clud­ing de­vel­op­ing strong ca­reer paths that at­tract and re­tain tal­ent and util­is­ing the green agenda to at­tract the younger gen­er­a­tion to con­sider a ca­reer in rail.

■ For more on the re­port and its rec­om­men­da­tions, read Anal­y­sis in RAIL 920, on sale De­cem­ber 16.

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