A radical solution to the employment crisis

Source: RTM June/July 2018

Peter Cayless, founder and creative director at Working Eye, talks about an innovative solution to employment in the rail industry that might just help transform careers advice into career discovery.

At the 2012 Latitude Festival, comedian Shappi Khorsandi joked that rather than book a clown for their daughter’s birthday party, parents should hire a careers adviser. Very funny at the time, but six years on, she could say the same. The situation hasn’t improved.

Unanimity across schools, industry bodies and government supports this view, and there is a realisation amongst most commentators that things need to change – and change fast.

As most people in rail are acutely aware, there are currently more people leaving the industry than joining it. Couple that with the massive infrastructure work in hand, plus HS2, HS3 and Crossrail 2 on the horizon, and we’re facing a problem of enormous magnitude.

The rail industry needs to create over 100,000 new jobs and recruit a huge number of apprentices. We all know that rail is a great place to work, with responsible and diverse employers, but public perception is not attracting the top talent and, without this, the industry could easily fall short of its ambitions.

Lucy Prior of Rail Alliance encourages people to pursue a career in rail. She is acutely aware of the need to attract the next generation of employees but understands that we can’t sell what we can’t describe.

“Those already working in the industry need to understand the scale of the skills gap and pull together to attract new entrants,” said Prior. “However, we need new methods of communication with the future workforce; methods in tune with their ways of accessing and digesting information. Furthermore, we need to recognise that future employees could come from other industries. We need to present rail as the diverse and high-tech sector that it truly is and eschew the traditional ‘oily rag’ misconception.”

There is consensus that a radical solution  is needed in order to attract the very best people. Radical because we won’t be able to do that until we make students of all ages aware of the many different and exciting jobs there are within the industry. Radical because nobody has ever changed anything by doing more of the same. The route to a lasting solution is to turn conventional wisdom on its head.

As Professor Brian Cox commented a while back, “the reason we don't have enough engineers in this country is because nobody knows what an engineer does anymore.”

A revolutionary service

Well, once in a while, something comes along which fundamentally changes the way people use a service that is important in their lives; something that disrupts the status quo. Working Eye is such a service. It represents a sea change, by turning careers advice into a journey of career discovery.

A constantly evolving, cross-referenced library of three-to-four-minute films, Working Eye will allow students to discover information for themselves. “No pages of text to read, no psychometric tests, just hundreds of short films that tell you pretty much everything you need to know and what to do next,” explained Working Eye’s Steve Carrigan, “like what exams you need, how much money you might earn, and what your prospects might be.”


This approach has been endorsed through investigation by independent educational researchers. They conclusively show that Working Eye is poised to trailblaze a new beginning by delivering information that’s impartial, honest, helpful and engaging. With the concept proved and the executions validated, every indication is that Working Eye is a game-changer. Right now, there are probably a number of questions going through your mind, so we’ll try to answer a few of them.

  1. How will Working Eye’s radical approach work for the rail industry?

Delivered free to students, schools, colleges and universities via an app on smartphones, tablets and laptops, a library of high-quality career discovery films showcasing the variety of exciting, leading-edge jobs and careers in rail will engage, stimulate and motivate students and the wider community alike.

The films can be branded for each participating company to use on their own websites and for their own personal recruitment drives, while the generic unbranded films will populate the app, with direct links to ‘Jobs in your area’ relating to the film you’ve just watched. A secure IT platform for distribution of the film library will use state-of-the-art analytical tools to measure success. It will have bulletproof security as the platform will be used by children.

  1. Why use Working Eye for film production?

Because a hand-picked team of experts have all the disciplines that will make it a success. Steeped in advertising, film, communications, journalism, digital technology and social media, film production is by true professionals at the top of their game. The film library will be supported by leading-edge artificial intelligence tools.

  1. How will it be funded?

A non-profit charity is the vehicle for engagement with rail industry corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds, with schools and with the community. Altruism through the Working Eye Foundation, blended with philanthropy from the rail industry, can help bring about a profound social change in this country.

But let’s not forget that this also has to make commercial sense. The Working Eye solution is about value, by dramatically reducing the cost of hiring across every area of rail. With this innovative use of CSR budgets, everything seems set to leave a lasting legacy in 2018, the Year of Engineering.

  1. So is this a long-term solution?

The short answer is ‘yes.’ The way the whole platform is designed and the films structured means new jobs can be easily added, lower-priority jobs removed, and long-term jobs easily updated to reflect an evolving working environment.  Without a doubt, this approach with Working Eye will go a long way towards helping the rail industry build a new, dynamic image by offering some of the most exciting and rewarding careers in the land. It will also be in on the ground floor of a revolutionary transformation by turning careers advice into career discovery, for the benefit of the whole community.

Rail professional Chris Leech MBE summed it up: “It demonstrates thought leadership, sound policy in diversity, ethnicity, corporate responsibility and sustainability, both within industry and the UK economy at large. It will also help to reduce the cost of recruitment by increasing the appeal of the industry to the talented people needed for apprenticeships today and career progression in the future. It will be a true, long-lasting legacy in the Year of Engineering from a rail industry that’s leading the way into the future. All it takes is for somebody to take the first steps.”


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