The Last Word


TfL shows the benefits of diversifying career paths

Blane Judd BandES Chief Executive  resize 635768085215139883Blane Judd, chief executive of EngTechNow, which supports companies in ensuring their staff and apprentices achieve Engineering Technician (EngTech) professional registration, says such registration helps ensure diversified career paths.

For every effort you make to enhance retention, some staff will always leave. We can try to address the reasons for this, but without keeping all of your staff all of the time, you need to address transition. And our new research reveals the cost of that transition.

Nine years of company data shows it costs a firm around £5,000 in lost productivity whenever a senior technician or engineer leaves a business. That figure is just the result of the departing technician or engineer spending time on handover activities instead of productive engineering – and the reduced productivity of their replacement until they adapt to their new employer.

There are less tangible costs too. For example, our ‘champion employers’ tell us that hiring staff can take up to two weeks of productive time for senior staff within their business. These are talented engineers and technicians spending time away from engineering in the midst of a skills gap.

Fortunately – as always – some organisations are leading the way in reducing the impact. Transport for London (TfL) is undertaking a large programme to professionally register its technicians. Its reason for doing so is that it helps it to break down conventional ‘stovepipe’ career development in which many staff rise only within their specialism. This is indicative of the way engineering is going.

The Olympics saw an unlocking of cross-discipline working at TfL. Staff were given the opportunity to take their skills all over the business to deliver services throughout the Olympic summer. This has resulted in big benefits, as Dana Skelly, director of asset management at TfL (pictured, above, with TfL apprentices), explained during our research.

Since then, TfL has seen more engineers gain greater experience of stakeholder engagement, dealing with the public, and crossing over in other disciplines. That greater integration of operations means it is a lot easier for staff to seek more diverse promotions within the company. And that in turn benefits TfL, by giving them a wider internal pool of talent to fish from, and offering greater opportunities to promote people they know can adapt quickly.

Retention resize 635768084999679056 resize 635768085732933147That promotion is critical to reducing the retention gap. Not only is it widely recognised that good prospects keep staff engaged and less likely to leave a business, but promotion from within significantly reduces the productivity loss when somebody does leave.

The lost productivity when a senior technician leaves a business is typically £4,908. This contrasts to a loss of £2,820 when a technician needs to be replaced.

The implications are clear. By ensuring technicians are ready for the step up, companies like TfL can recruit closer to entry-level positions and reduce the hit on productivity.

It is this kind of thinking that has led to companies like Crossrail, Amey, and BAM Nuttall to sign public charters committing to help more of their staff to achieve EngTech status. However, companies still need to hire successfully at whatever level they hire.

This can be a real challenge. Our data suggests that staff are around twice as likely to leave their job in the first year than in any of the four subsequent years. So for many companies, there is a re-replacement issue to address.

Feeding into our report, Keith Lewis of Matchtech explained that the days of laying a CV over the old job spec and finding the closest match were dead, or should be. The reason is clear: with engineering skills at a premium, the applicant is king or queen. If a company doesn’t sell itself well, it won’t get the quality of staff it needs. If it sells itself inaccurately, it will quickly lose the applicants it does attract.

So we all need to fish from a larger pool. Right now the oil and gas sector is contracting. This represents an opportunity for companies ahead of the curve in other areas of engineering.

Technicians and engineers leaving that industry may not have direct experience of rail technology, but they will have years of experience and engineering knowledge that can be adapted to the specific needs of a new field. What is harder to teach on the job is the professionalism and personality that means someone fits the company or not.

As more employers adopt this outlook to find staff who provide the right fit, and recognise the core competences that will allow them to learn their new area of engineering, the retention gap will be reduced, engineering careers will become more diverse – and potentially more attractive too.


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment


rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

Network Rail’s subsidiary secures systems integrator contract in Australia

14/12/2018Network Rail’s subsidiary secures systems integrator contract in Australia

The Australian subsidiary of Network Rail Consulting has been named as the systems integrator for the Digital Systems Program in Sydney by Transp... more >
Infrastructure giant Amey to be sold to private equity firm in new year

14/12/2018Infrastructure giant Amey to be sold to private equity firm in new year

 Infrastructure giant Amey is expected to be sold to a private equity firm in the new year, according to reports. The Financial Times b... more >
HS2 and Crossrail suppliers admit to running ‘illegal cartel’ for 7 years

14/12/2018HS2 and Crossrail suppliers admit to running ‘illegal cartel’ for 7 years

Two UK rail suppliers to major projects such as HS1, HS2, and Crossrail have admitted to operating an illegal cartel for almost seven years with ... more >
Network Rail fined £200k after elderly signaller suffers ‘life-changing injuries’ in level crossing

13/12/2018Network Rail fined £200k after elderly signaller suffers ‘life-changing injuries’ in level crossing

Network Rail has been fined £200,000 after a 65-year-old man suffered life-changing injuries at a level crossing in Kent over three years a... more >


Passenger safety: Respect the edge

27/11/2018Passenger safety: Respect the edge

Claire Coward, communications lead at the RSSB, discusses her organisation’s latest passenger safety campaign. Incidents at the platfo... more >
Night Tube: The twilight economy

27/11/2018Night Tube: The twilight economy

Dr David Lutton, executive director of economy and tax at London First, argues that the capital’s night-time economy is just starting its j... more >
Monitoring the performance of earthworks

27/11/2018Monitoring the performance of earthworks

Dr Joel Smethurst, associate professor in geotechnical engineering, and Professor William Powrie, professor of geotechnical engineering, both of ... more >
Introducing iPort

20/11/2018Introducing iPort

Steve Freeman, managing director of iPort Rail, introduces the UK’s newest inland freight terminal. The UK’s newest inland rail ... more >

editor's comment

23/01/2018Out with the old...

Despite a few disappointing policy announcements, especially for the electrification aficionados amongst us, 2017 was, like Darren Caplan writes on page 20, a year generally marked by positive news for the rail industry. We polished off the iconic Ordsall Chord (p32), hit some solid milestones on Thameslink (p40), progressed on ambitious rolling stock orders (p16), and finally started moving forward on HS2 (p14) ‒ paving the way for a New Ye... read more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the... more > more last word articles >


HS2 train race: making the case

20/11/2018HS2 train race: making the case

Bombardier and Hitachi’s commitment to providing the best HS2 rolling stock pitch to the government was signified with the launch of their ... more >
Finding positives in negative short-circuiting devices

09/11/2018Finding positives in negative short-circuiting devices

Sponsored interview  Anything that brings about safety and time-saving benefits is a valued improvement for the rail industry, which is w... more >
Taking to the skies

30/10/2018Taking to the skies

Network Rail’s commitment to driving innovation is best encapsulated by its latest scheme involving high-definition imagery drones, or UAVs... more >

rail industry focus

View all News

'the sleepers' daily blog

Spotlight on Coventry Very Light Rail

27/11/2018Spotlight on Coventry Very Light Rail

Olivia Brown, business development officer at Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), an academic department of the University of Warwick, outlines th... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >