With recent headlines about damage to the rail network caused by extreme weather and the awarding of major framework contracts by Network Rail, the skills shortages within the rail engineering sector has been thrust into the spotlight.
The rail industry is well aware of the need to fill this gap and the report from the National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering for the Office of Rail Regulation confirmed what we already know; that without a concerted effort to attract new people and train them in the necessary skills, the planned investment in more than 200 rail projects over the next seven years is at risk.
This skills gap is partly due to the fact that 20% of the current workforce is over the age of 55, and partly because of the high demand anticipated from major rail projects, including electrification and the introduction of ERTMS.
One organisation working to fill this gap is Shorterm Group. In business since 1972, Shorterm Group has been providing skilled engineers to the rail sector across all disciplines and is perfectly placed to support major rail projects across the UK.
Shorterm Group has recognised that as well as encouraging new blood in to the industry, it is also essential to ensure existing engineers are provided with ongoing training. Shorterm Group is developing a multi-skilled workforce within its existing Signalling, Welding, OLE and Permanent Way teams, as well as introducing apprentices across all areas of its rail business during 2014.
Says Steve Gallucci, CEO of Shorterm Group, ‘Over the next few years there will be massive investment in the UK’s rail industry, which will increase the demand for a skilled workforce. On the track the skills shortages are already beginning to have an impact. This is most notable in areas such as overhead line electrification, signalling, and power systems. We’re acting now in a bid to get ahead of the curve.’
To support its multi-skilling programme Shorterm Group has partnered with TrainsPeople Ltd and a number of further education colleges. TrainsPeople will provide technical training in Signalling, OLEC and Permanent Way from its training centre in West Horndon. Further Education colleges will provide support for
Shorterm’s apprenticeship programme. This highly skilled resource pool will be deployed across the UK to support the delivery of major rail projects, ensuring they are delivered to plan by a safe and competent workforce.
With more than 2,000 more employees needed over the next five years within signalling and a further 1,000 for electrification, the challenge is clear – and one that Shorterm Group is facing up to with enthusiasm.