Fairer recruitment practices, better parental leave policies and more consistent working patterns are needed to make the transport industry more inclusive and accessible to a diverse pool of candidates, according to responses to a government consultation.
The Department for Transport sought views on how a transport workforce that is fit for the future could be developed, and asked the industry to highlight the labour market and skills challenges it was experiencing.
The consensus was that transport’s skills needs were rapidly changing, but in the future the industry would need to focus on decarbonisation and utilise ‘green’ skills, such as those involved in electrification and the use of alternative fuels, as well as science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills and more transferable skills like communication and project management.
However, respondents felt that the industry still suffered from an “image problem” and that it needed to showcase the variety of roles on offer more effectively. It was felt that without having visible role models to promote careers in the sector, underrepresented groups might perceive the industry as “unwelcoming”.
Transport sector diversity
The summary of responses noted that the public percieved roles in transport as a “man’s job” with roles that involve dirty, manual and physical work.
Some suggested that there was still a perception that certain groups are not welcome due to their background, appearance or gender.
While respondents said that many positive initiatives to improve diversity have been tried across the industry, there was no straightforward answer to addressing the issues and the pace of change had been insufficient.
A local transport body commented: “Technical barriers can limit the attractiveness of the transport sector to those from diverse backgrounds. For example, chartership and other high levels of technical requirements for roles may limit who can apply for a role, where people might be able to train on the job for a specific role if they have transferable skills. Also, the lack of inclusive culture for people entering the transport workforce may impact on both recruitment and retention.”
Many respondents felt that recruitment processes should be reviewed, and proposed interventions such as removing gender bias in job working, guaranteed interviews, ‘blind’ recruitment, unconscious bias training, and taking neurodiversity into account.
Other areas of HR policy suggested by respondents included:
- more flexibility around contracts
- job sharing
- family friendly policies to support working parents
- better sick leave policies
- practices that foster work life balance
- mandatory training on bullying and harassment and zero tolerance when it occurs.
Moves towards net zero and decarbonisation presented an ideal opportunity to improve transport sector diversity and for outreach, especially to young people who are increasingly interested in solving the climate challenge, the respondents said.
Other issues raised by the transport sector included:
- concerns that the prioritisation of full qualifications had affected uptake of retraining and upskilling opportunities
- the feeling that the diversification of learning opportunities could help the industry attract staff from other sectors, who might be reluctant to commit to longer-term training
- short courses, such as ‘bootcamps’ had been successful in addressing issues such as labour market shortages, diversity and barriers to entry
- the public were simply not aware of the diverse careers on offer in transport, from data analytics professionals to communications specialists, as emphasis is usually placed on front-facing transport roles such as lorry or train drivers.
- discontent about the apprenticeship levy, with some suggesting funding could be used to provide alternative training and development programmes or internships.
The report concludes that the DfT would work with the Transport Employment and Skills Taskforce to identify and prioritise interventions that could have the most impact.