The government is seeking views on the future skills needs of employers in the transport sector, and has launched a taskforce to help promote transport careers and reduce barriers to diversity, inclusion and social mobility.
The Department for Transport has today (7 February) launched a 12-week consultation to help it understand the skills transport sector employers will require in future; how current qualification and training routes can be made more accessible; and how the sector might attract more young people and career changers.
It also recognises that diversity and inclusion is lagging behind, and wants to understand the barriers preventing people from under-represented groups from entering the sector.
It has launched taskforce, led by Institute of Civil Engineers president Rachel Skinner CBE, to consider how skills gaps can be plugged and diversity can be improved.
Currently women make up only 20% of the transport sector workforce, but apprenticeship figures suggest a further decline in gender diversity. The number of females starting technical and engineering apprenticeships at road and rail organisations fell from 14.8% in 2016 to 12% in October 2020. Twenty-one per cent of apprenticeships are undertaken by individuals from ethnic minority groups.
“I know how challenging, rewarding and fascinating working within the transport sector can be, particularly at the forefront of our net zero transition,” said Skinner, chair of the Transport Employment and Skills Taskforce.
“It’s well-known that a more diverse and inclusive workforce increases creativity, collaboration and productivity, and I’m excited to use my experience to ensure people from underrepresented groups can build brilliant careers in transport.”
Transport minister Andrew Stephenson said: “This taskforce will break down barriers to the leaders of the future who will deliver services that are essential to keep our country and economy moving.”
The consultation report notes that transport organisations have had to respond and adapt throughout the pandemic to keep networks operational, often moving staff around into different roles and utilising new and different skills.
“This demonstrated the importance of an adaptable, flexible workforce who have access to the training and development they need to respond and adapt to fast-changing circumstances,” it says.
Diversity and inclusion
“We have also seen how important transport skills are to the wider economy. A shortage of HGV drivers has led to significant supply issues in parts of the economy creating a ripple effect across diverse sectors from hospitality, supermarkets, and construction. Further recruitment challenges in the construction sector can slow down the delivery of infrastructure and other development projects.
“In the interests of the wider economy, it is vital we produce a skilled pipeline of talent across the transport sector to keep the economy moving. Improving the training and employment options across the country will be essential in delivering this.”
The government’s proposed approach to addressing skills challenges across the transport sector is structured around five pillars:
- Preparing for future skills – including science, technology, leadership, programme and project management, and project delivery skills
- Improving training and employment – including increasing the number of apprentices entering the sector and helping the sector better understand the value of T Levels
- Promoting careers in transport – including actively encouraging the transport industry and stakeholders to focus on attracting more young people and career changers from a variety of backgrounds via local outreach work, and supporting the unemployed to retrain
- Boosting D&I and social mobility – including setting stretching targets, identifying and overcoming barriers for different groups, and supporting those from disadvantaged and under-represented groups to enter the sector
- Building evidence and evaluating progress.
The publication of the consultation coincides with the start of National Apprenticeship Week.
Govia Thameslink Railway – which operates Great Northern, Southern, and Thameslink – said it had seen an influx of female and ethnic minority apprentices. Thirty-four per cent of 2021 recruits were women, while 27% have an ethnic minority background. Forty per cent are aged 31-40 years old.
David Jackson, apprenticeship specialist at Govia Thameslink Railway, said: “Working in rail provides an opportunity for people of all ages to invigorate their careers in an industry which provides first class training and long-term job prospects. As passenger numbers increase and the country starts to get back on track, we’re delighted to be able to offer even more fantastic apprenticeship opportunities to work in the rail industry.”