Why we are running a #transportskills week

Our members, the Government and transport users alike all have hopes and expectations for improved transport infrastructure both regionally and nationally. However engineering is just one dimension of the skills shortages that face the transport sector exacerbated by a workforce which is ageing and which does not reflect the diversity of wider society. Indeed the Department for Transport is predicting a 55,000 shortfall in skilled workers in transport infrastructure by 2020, which is a major threat to transport infrastructure development. One key reason why we supporting National Women in Engineering Day this Friday.

The Urban Transport Group has long supported initiatives designed to encourage and promote careers in transport and to enhance diversity in recruitment – we strongly believe there’s a need to make a career in the transport sector more appealing to a more diverse range of people not least because sorting out your cities transport challenges in creative and effective ways, or delivering that transport service, is an exciting and rewarding thing to do. Yet the image the sector projects is not cutting through.

In the run up to National Women in Engineering Day on Friday, 23 June we will be highlighting the many excellent initiatives and examples that are out not just on encouraging women into the engineering sector, and transport more widely, but also on many other aspects of skills and diversity. And there are some great initiatives out there – the Chartered Institute of Highways and Logistics (CIHT) has a toolkit 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. 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.

#Transportskills week forms part of our wider work on capabilities and capacities which includes creating the only guide – that we are aware of – that profiles the various national relevant skills and diversity initiatives which the transport sector could participate in or take advantage of.

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 in the guide. In addition, our wider Capacities and Capabilities workstream (of which our people and skills work stream 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.

If we want urban transport to meet the needs of our changing and growing cities then we need those who plan, deliver and provide urban transport systems to reflect the vibrancy, diversity and creativity of those who live there and we need urban transport organisations that offer careers that build skills, fit lifestyles and support peoples’ development. There’s plenty of great skills and diversity initiatives out there to help this process – and highlighting those is what our #transportskills week is all about.

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.