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May’s industrial strategy ‘must address Brexit skills impact on HS2’

HS2 could suffer from a loss of foreign workers after Brexit unless the government makes addressing the shortage part of its industrial strategy, Balfour Beatty has said.

The infrastructure company’s newest briefing paper said that the 2.2 million EU nationals working in the UK have provided the skills workforce the UK cannot source at home.

It argued that uncertainty about free movement of labour could cause recruitment and staffing difficulties, lead to increased costs where demand for labour outstrips supply, and risk causing delays – especially on HS2 and the nuclear new build programme.

Both Balfour Beatty and the head of the National Audit Office had already warned that HS2 could suffer from a skills and funding shortage after Brexit, although prime minister Theresa May and transport secretary Chris Grayling have insisted it will still go ahead.

It is understood that the Cabinet is considering plans to try to limit migration as part of the UK’s exit from the EU.

But Balfour Beatty stressed that May’s government industrial strategy should include an “early and integrated” policy to retain the skills of workers who have migrated to Britain and continue to make the country an attractive place for overseas workers.

A Cabinet Committee on Industrial Strategy has already been formed, and Balfour Beatty said a multi-departmental strategy would be needed, with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy working closely with the Departments for International Trade and Exiting the European Union.

However, it also argued the strategy must support upskilling the UK workforce. Balfour Beatty said the new apprenticeship levy was “welcome” but would not address the shortfall in workers.

Instead, the company claimed a “collegiate approach” was needed, with a single programme agreed between the government, industry and representative bodies.

Speaking at iRail 2016 earlier this year, John Evans, the then CEO of the National College for High Speed Rail, said that rail engineering would have to present its “human side” to attract the next generation and address the rail industry skills shortage.

Overall, Balfour Beatty said the industrial strategy should focus on achieving “sustained and sustainable productivity” across the whole economy, including different geographic areas and SMEs, and boosting infrastructure and key industries.

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Terry K   18/10/2016 at 11:54

Whilst I agree with Balfour Beatty I think that the people already here in Britain will be able to remain doing the same jobs that they do now, there is however a lot of the UK labour force available for retraining into the rail industry, Alstom have set the ball rolling with their Training Facility proposed for Ditton. DB have just announced a high level of redundancy from the Freight Sector, many of these can be retrained for HS2.

Wise Engineer   18/10/2016 at 12:22

Wouldn't place too much credibility in BB reporting as they can't report their financial position or know the size of their business when addressing the City. It's bigger than £30m by the way. There is a wealth of skills in the current generation being sidelined through employing politically correct diversity objectives in recruitment. BB & the UK Rail industry appear to not want skilled middle aged male Engineers with grey hair amongst them. Productivity down, train performance down, look inward. Further why would any self respecting professional want to work for an organisation like BB who build a war chest to pay fines for safety breaches, pay bonuses to directors to not deliver safety targets and recently give up on incentivising directors for improving safety performance. Why is work being let to such a poor company? Took 5 years to get NR onboard with STEM in schools. Will HS2 not be subject to EU procurement rules now we have Brexit. Opportunity for cost efficiencies surely without the nonsensical burden of multiple layers of non value add red tape. Me thinks a pragmatic Engineers view is required.

Experienced Not Stupid   18/10/2016 at 13:59

To add to the Wise Engineer's comments, the "Tickets for Everything" culture, which doubtless pays well for training agencies, has created a situation where experienced and professionally qualified people - who actually understand (for example) exactly how stressing works, are unemployable because their careers have taken them away from site work for longer than the validity of their PTS cards (never mind their stressing certificates).

Tothehills   24/10/2016 at 09:51

For the most part I agree with Wise Engineer but where I do diverge is the needless and incorrect slag off of the EU. The EU has not introduced the overly bearing "tick it" culture, it is purely a UK self-inflicted application of ALARP and its pandering to protecting complete morons who can't be bothered to look after themselves (That is not saying we should do bad/dangerous design just not over design). Looking at the new shiny foot bridge at my local station pending electrification of the GWML, I get the impression NR have built it to take the same crowd capacity as Paddington station. Similarly to some of the local farm bridges for cows appear to be built by NR to take Challenger II Tanks over them, where as the ones over the M4, nearby, seem to be comparatively spindly affairs. They are way over engineered for the roles they actually need to fulfill, go to other EU countries and you rarely see such crass over building and it is this which is pushing up the costs. This level of regulation has nothing to do with the EU what so ever, and as an engineer you should know that (certainly not the ones I read last week).

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