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Transferable skills essential

The future looks bright for the railways. Passenger demand is increasing. Investment in high speed rail and major projects such as electrification, will create increasing demand for skilled personnel. Writes Lawrence Dobie, Education and Training Director at Vital Services Group

There are already recruitment challenges at all levels in the industry, particularly in specialist engineering. Network Rail is putting increasing pressure on contractors to employ staff direct, rather than rely on agencies.

As well as young people finishing their academic careers, this investment in infrastructure also provides a massive opportunity for those with relevant, transferrable skills.

Challenging times

Talent from other sectors that have faced challenging times during the economic downturn such as the armed forces, nuclear, telecoms or mining, should consider the rail industry as their next career step.

Many of the skills these people have are transferable to the rail industry, including communication, planning and decision making.

More mature candidates can offer considerable experience of operating in challenging environments, team working and managing and motivating others.

The move into a new, potentially lucrative career can be made a smooth one for job seekers by finding the right training programme that will bridge the gap in these specialist engineering skills. Training providers can then help to find an appropriate role to match the newly acquired expertise.

Ex-service personnel

With particular reference to the aforementioned armed forces, the Ministry Of Defence’s Career Transition Partnership (CTP) initiative helps ex-service personnel to make a successful transition into a suitable second career which suits their skills, knowledge and aspirations.

The partnership helps people to prepare for civilian life, even for those who wish to enter full-time education, and is a good example of how the industry could attract a pool of skilled workers who have the potential to develop further with industry-specific training.

Implementing this type of transitional support system could be particularly beneficial to the areas of electrification and OLE engineering – two areas where there are substantial skills shortages and with much potential for rail contractors to fill some highly sought-after roles.

For those with an engineering background, there are roles in maintenance, asset information, track, construction, civil engineering or signalling, power and communication. Alternatively, roles such as finance, legal or HR offer a worthwhile career in the many support functions.

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