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.