Diversify and reach out for skills in transport!

Brainstorming Brainstorm Business People Design Concepts

There is a projected shortfall in skilled engineers of 30,000 in the next decade, posing a substantial challenge to transport infrastructure development. Beyond engineering, there are significant shortages in other skills in transport, including project managers and transport planners and modellers. In addition, new data sources and approaches will demand new skills, which the transport sector will have to draw into its workforce, or invest in upskilling existing employees.

The Department for Transport identifies these shortages in its “Transport Infrastructure Skill Strategy” which sets out to develop a strategy for mitigating these skill shortages and keeping the transport sector moving. This includes a commitment to 30,000 new road and rail apprenticeships by 2020, with a 20% increase in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) candidates by 2020 and 20% of new entrants to engineering and technical apprenticeships to be women by 2020 and fully parity with the working population by 2030.

The Urban Transport Group recognises that this is a critical issue for the transport community to address and as such, held a seminar in July 2016 to discuss the challenges arising around recruitment, retention and skills.

There are a wide range of national initiatives to encourage and promote careers in transport and to enhance diversity in recruitment, however awareness of these is generally low. UTG has been promoting these initiatives amongst our members to help address present and future skills shortages and a few highlights are presented here.

Routes to Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit

This toolkit has been developed by the Chartered Institute of Highways and Logistics (CIHT) to offer practical guidance to employers to help them to recruit and retain a diverse workforce. At present women are underrepresented in the transport sector and BAME people make up less 10% of the workforce (national average is 14%). The toolkit aims to address the lack of diversity in the transport sector and deliver benefits such as recruitment from a wider talent pool, benefits to corporate reputation and improvements in creativity and innovation. The toolkit can be found here.

Women in Transport

This is the legacy programme from the 100 Years of Women in Transport that TfL and others ran in 2014. The aims include:

  • Attracting more women by highlighting the careers on offer
  • Showcasing the contributions women have made and continue to make in the industry
  • Providing opportunities for personal development and progression at all levels
  • Establishing an industry-wide network as a legacy of continued improvement and development
  • Running inspirational and thought-provoking events

Employers can get involved by offering speakers, hosting events and other activities. They also host a ‘coffee roulette’ where you can be paired with someone else in the industry and meet for coffee (or have a phone or skype chat) in order to find out about a different area of the transport industry. More can be found here.

There are a number of national schemes that help employees to go into schools and promote careers in their areas. These include STEMNET for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics based careers, the Royal Geographical Society’s Geography Ambassador scheme, for geography related careers, and Inspiring the Future, which is not sector or subject specific. By promoting careers in transport to young people, awareness of the broad range of opportunities in the sector can be built, and this can help young people to make informed decisions about subject choices and career paths in transport at those crucial points.

In order to avoid substantial skills shortfalls in the future, the transport sector should take action now. It is also important to address the lack of diversity in the sector in order to maximise the benefits outlined by CIHT.

UTG will continue to work in this area, and we have established a People and Skills Hub on our website for our members, in order to share information about national initiatives like those highlighted here. In addition, our wider Capacities and Capabilities workstream (of which our people and skills workstream is part) seeks to improve the capabilities and capacities of our members, including through an ‘Insight’ hub for datasets and indicators and shared technical and transport planning tools.

Five key takeaways on emerging data for transport

Uber app

Urban Transport Group and the Future Cities Catapult recently held a ‘Getting Smart on Data’ workshop, looking at the potential of emerging data in transport. On just my second day as a researcher with the UTG, it was a truly fascinating event and a dive head long into this dynamic area in transport. We bought together stakeholders from multiple transport authorities, from a range of roles including IT and transport modellers and planners, with representatives from industry and academia, to engage in conversations and shape the debate about the role of emerging data for transport.

Here are my five key takeaways from the day.

  1. Data is EVERYWHERE

We are generating data all the time, whether through our use of smart ticketing, our spending patterns, or location data from our phones. 90% of the world’s data was generated in the last two years. A growing volume of this data is at the disposal of the transport sector, however much remains inaccessible. In addition, the data that is being generated is diverse, diffuse and is being held and generated by numerous individuals and organisations, which creates barriers.

  1. Opening up is important

There has been a drive for increasing openness in data, with the UK Government opening up vast amounts of data through data.gov.uk and many other organisations following suit. This allows people to come into the market and gain added value from this data, for example, over 5,000 developers have registered for to use the TfL open data resulting in the development of hundreds of apps, tools and services. This is generating benefits for users of transport and enhancing the customer experience.

  1. But protecting people’s personal data is also critical

Individuals retain rights to data protection and it is important that developments in using emerging data adhere to existing and new regulation on this. This will be particularly prominent in transport, where personal data is collected through smart cards and other mechanisms, and in exploring options for utilising mobile data in transport, as this can take the form of sensitive personal information about travel patterns.

  1. The opportunities are massive

The potential of using new data sources for transport planning and modelling is huge, with mobile data in particular providing an invaluable resource for understanding people’s mobility behaviour. This holds promise for transport authorities to tap into emerging data, for improving analysis and generating new insight.

  1. The sector needs to keep pace and skill up

While the opportunities arising from emerging data sets are vast, the skills required may be missing from the traditional transport planning and modelling communities and they will need to explore ways of up skilling and drawing in new talent from the data and coding communities in order to fully exploit these opportunities. The pace of innovation in emerging data is fast, so the transport sector needs to work hard to keep up.

The event set me thinking about how much data I generate on a daily basis, whether through the location services on my smartphone or using my smart card on the bus and my contactless payment card for my shopping. Personally, I think questions around trust, security and transparency are key to managing and capitalising on the vast swathes of data that have, and will, emerge and making the best use of them for improving transport planning, modelling and services.

This is an exciting area so watch this space for more!

To find out more about data in cities by visiting the Future Cities Catapult website.