The rail industry has been suffering from a serious skills shortage for a number of years now highlighted even more so with the first phase of HS2 due in 2026 and #Network Rail CP6 starting in April 2019. Indeed, it’s been more than 100 years since the UK built a new rail line north of London. In 1994–95 over 785m rail journeys were made each year, and according to government statistics this has now increased to 1.69bn. According to Engineering UK new technology is likewise transforming the engineering skills needs of construction and #rail and #road infrastructure. A critical part of Network Rail’s railway upgrade plan, the largest modernisation programme since the Victorian era, involves moving from signalling based on fixed blocks of track to block signalling sited within moving trains to increase the capacity of the network. The programme includes High Speed 2 and Crossrail, as well as electrification and station upgrades. Unsurprisingly, these major projects necessitate a significant number of engineers. It is anticipated that an additional 7,200 engineering and technical workers will be needed in high speed rail by 2020.
It’s not surprising that industry measures are now being put in place with the aim of attracting, training and finding roles for new recruits. Upskilling of the UK’s current rail workforce will also play a major role in trying to plug the gap of any skills shortages. Put simply more needs to be done in order to attract new talent, the right people and to tackle the problem head-on.
MECX Attracting the Next Wave of Engineers
The National Skills Academy is delivering initiatives such as the Rail Sector Skills Delivery plan with the aim of supporting the investment plans and the performance of railway’s through attracting a new generation of people which includes 20,000 apprenticeships by 2020 but also investing in the current workforce. The goal is to promote the rail industry as a high-tech and dynamic industry.
That’s why at MECX we have already embarked upon up-skilling our current workforce whilst offering new apprenticeship schemes in order to attract the next generation of insightful engineers. We believe that it’s all about changing current perceptions of the rail industry and not just a case of engineers being placed out on the tracks.
A New Approach is Required
The rail industry could almost be classed as living in the dark ages when it comes to recruitment and jobs because the workforce is male-dominated. In the rail industry, women make up around 20% of the workforce but within engineering roles, only 4.4% of roles are taken up by women.
So, it is clear to see that the transport sector has to meet the challenge of developing a workforce while improving access to apprenticeships and increasing apprenticeship numbers. The aim is for 20% of new apprentices that enter the workforce to be women along with a 20% increase in the number of BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) apprentices.
These figures are aimed at dealing with the problem of a lack of diversity in the rail industry, especially when you consider the low number of #women in rail and the way in which those from BAME backgrounds are poorly represented.
There is no doubt that apprenticeships are the way to respond to the skill shortages in the long-term. However, it should not be about filling the skills shortages with already experienced workers because that pulls them from other industry sectors; but should be more about giving people the skills and the opportunity to play their part in an ever-changing industry that has a big future ahead of it.