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New 2.5% apprenticeship target for major rail projects to spur gender diversity

HS2 Ltd, Network Rail, Transport for London and Crossrail have agreed to stretch the target for new female entrants to engineering and technical apprenticeships with the goal to put this figure in line with the proportion of total women in work by 2030.

The deal was struck today in an effort to overturn the industry’s stark gender inequality, with women representing just 20% of employees in rail as a whole and less than 5% of engineering roles.

This specific target is part of a wider transport apprenticeship strategy also being launched today, which specify that, from March, contracts let to major government transport infrastructure projects will include targets for creating new apprenticeships.

Network Rail and the Department for Transport will now work with their suppliers to ensure apprenticeships form part of every major contract in an effort to create 30,000 apprenticeships by 2020.

This means that, depending on the contract, suppliers will either create one apprenticeship for every £3m to £5m spent, or increase the percentage in the number of apprentices employed each year during the lifetime of the contract.

The overall aim is that the number of apprenticeships created each year equal 2.5% of the workforce – so for every 200 people hired each year, the employer will have to create five apprenticeships.

Developed by Crossrail chairman Terry Morgan, the strategy builds upon some examples of best practice in the industry – including within Crossrail itself, which has created 100 more apprenticeships than its original 400 target over the lifetime of the project.

Morgan said: As we have seen on Crossrail, by working with our suppliers we can help young people begin long and successful careers in an exciting and nationally important sector.

“To create a workforce capable of delivering the unprecedented number of transport projects in the pipeline it is vital we increase the number of apprentices and attract more women into the industry. This skills strategy is a huge step in the right direction, but all of us, from parents and teachers to chief executives and industry leaders have a role to play to help the next generation grab the exciting opportunities on offer.”

Network Rail chief Mark Carne said that, in respect to his organisation, they are currently looking at ways to adapt and grow their apprenticeship scheme to attract more diverse applicants, a theme covered by RTM in a Q&A with NR resourcing attraction manager Alasdair Waddell.

Across HS2, CEO Simon Kirby said the company will continue to work with the National College for High Speed Rail to tackle the industry’s skills drive and deliver the expertise needed for the mammoth infrastructure project and the nation as a whole.

As part of today’s drive, the DfT is also recommending that all organisations of over 250 employees create a ‘returnship’ programme to make it easier for people, particularly women, return to work after time out.

Both Network Rail and Transport for London are already recruiting for their 2016 apprenticeship schemes. To apply, search the Network Rail and TfL 2016 schemes, which opened this month.


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