Rail industry leaders launch joined-up plan to tackle rail skills shortage
Rail industry leaders have announced the launch of the Rail Sector Skills Delivery Plan, which aims to tackle the rail industry’s growing challenge in finding and training new recruits.
The plan, developed in response to the government’s Transport Infrastructure Skills Strategy (TISS) published last year, was developed in collaboration with over 60 businesses across the rail sector and will be delivered by TOCs, infrastructure managers, colleges, trainers and academia, along with Young Rail Professionals and Women in Rail.
The plan hopes to tackle the chronic skills shortage in the rail industry, with research estimating that a lack of investment in skills will cost the industry over £300m by 2024, set to escalate to over £1bn 10 years later.
Rail minister Paul Maynard, who wrote for the latest edition of RTM about the importance of innovation, said in his keynote: “Britain has a chance to be a leading player in the global rail industry but to achieve this we need to attract a new generation of young people into the workforce. We are competing for the brightest and best talent and must get better at promoting the well-paid and exciting careers rail can offer.
“I am delighted to launch the industry’s first ever skills plan and want the rail sector to join government in getting behind it to deliver a highly-skilled, diverse and flexible workforce, to drive up the number of apprenticeships and to promote rail as a high-tech and dynamic industry.”
The TISS sets out significant challenges to the transport sector in developing its workforce, seeking the delivery of 30,000 apprenticeships by 2020. At least 20% of the new apprentices entering the workforce should be women and, where there is under-representation, it also seeks a 20% increase in the number of BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) apprentices.
These quotas are an attempt to tackle the poor diversity of the railway industry, with women making up a mere 4% of railway engineers and less than 18% of the rail industry overall, according to Women in Rail’s research. People of BAME backgrounds are also insufficiently represented.
Mike Brown, transport commissioner and new NSAR chairman, expressed optimism in the industry’s ability to turn these figures around, saying: “I passionately believe in ensuring that this industry has the right skills to tackle the challenges we are facing. We have not properly looked at all parts of society to harness new talent so desperately needed.
“We have to urgently address the number of women and people from the black, Asian and minority ethnic communities – not only will this make our industry a better place to work, we will also be more productive and successful in responding to the great opportunities ahead.”
The chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), Paul Plummer, echoed Brown’s comments, confirming the RDG’s support for the initiative and emphasising the importance of more skilled workers in the rail industry.
“Our members are actively contributing to the [Rail Sector Skills Delivery Plan] by planning, delivering and implementing the new apprenticeship standards and creatively using the new apprenticeship levy,” Plummer added.
“We also welcome the inclusion of apprenticeship targets in the new franchises. We need an even more highly skilled workforce to deliver the technical and operational challenges that we face.”
Full coverage of the event launch for the skills plan, which took place on Wednesday at the Institute of Civil Engineers, will feature in the next edition of RTM (December/January 2017).