We recently hosted our inaugural conference at Birmingham’s Thinktank Museum. The aim of the event was to address the longstanding skills shortage facing the rail industry, and in particular, how high speed rail can be a catalyst for transforming the skills base for the better.
Chaired by Broadcaster Steph McGovern, the event offered delegates the opportunity to explore how the industry can encourage diversity in the rail sector by:
- improving the profile of engineering to attract the brightest and the best
- addressing the gender imbalance and attracting more women
- addressing the gap between school leavers and entering college
- raising the visibility of apprenticeships in the rail sector
A key note speech was delivered by the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin MP who said:
“HS2 will not only improve connectivity and free up space on our crowded rail network, it will create thousands of jobs and be a major boost for skills.
“We will need to find 25,000 people to work on HS2 at its peak, as well as thousands of apprentices. That’s why the Government is investing in the National College for High Speed Rail in Doncaster and Birmingham, which will give students the high level skills we need to build HS2 and future projects like it.”
As part of our ongoing commitment to tackle the skills challenge, our members announced a pledge to fund two higher apprenticeship places specific to the rail industry, targeted at those from low income backgrounds or individuals who may not have previously considered a career in rail. The initiative has been developed with the support of the National College for High Speed Rail (NCHSR), the National Skills Academy for Rail (NSAR) and Birmingham City Council (BCC).
With the support of member companies we also plan to host a series of ‘how to do my job’ workshops aimed at parents, teachers, schools, colleges and young people, in order to build understanding about the roles and opportunities available in rail and create new advocates for the industry, with the first workshop to commence in Autumn 2016.
Jim Steer, Director at High speed Rail Industry Leaders, said:
“This conference marked a turning point for delivering high-speed rail in Britain. The major companies that will deliver HS2 – those involved in training and apprenticeships in engineering and other skill areas; young professionals in the rail sector; and HS2 Ltd itself – all recognised, discussed and identified the challenges and opportunities ahead.
“The need to address a national skills gap has been long understood. The opportunity to use the project to break down perceived barriers for women, ethnic minorities and those who in harder-to-employ categories were recognised. As was the fact that job opportunities will be spread across a huge supply chain right across the country.
“The opportunity now exists, starting from the expected award of major contracts to start construction early in 2017, to ensure that every opportunity is taken to use this project not just to deliver HS2 to the highest environmental and other standards, but also to use it to build the delivery capability for the future. Infrastructure and industrial policy can be combined to secure the maximum national benefit from the investment in HS2.
“High Speed Rail can be a catalyst for transforming the UK’s skills and employment base for the better and we are ready, willing and able to deliver, as HSRIL companies have already demonstrated with projects all over the world.”