Crossrail chairman Terry Morgan has been appointed by the government to produce a strategy to address the sector’s substantial skills challenge.
During a visit to the National Training Academy for Rail (NTAR) in Northampton, which opens in October, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the government’s ambition was to see 30,000 apprenticeships created across the rail and road sectors over the next five years.
The National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering (NSARE) has predicted a shortfall of 8,000 skilled workers over the next 10 years, with traction and rolling stock showing the most acute shortage. NTAR, which has been jointly funded by NSARE and Siemens, will go some way to addressing that need.
McLoughlin said the development of an industry strategy has been on the radar for some time.
‘Things like this don’t happen over night,’ says McLoughlin. ‘This has been in the planning for a few years now, and has been talked about for a few years, so it’s not something that we’ve suddenly woke up to and said ‘gosh we’ve got a terrible skills shortage’… We’ve been working on getting facilities like this up and running.’
Morgan, who is also chairman of the shadow board at the national HS2 college, said, ‘It’s vital that we develop the workforce of the future, ensuring the transport industry has the right people in the right place at the right time, and crucially with the right skills, to deliver this unprecedented programme of infrastructure work.’
The skills strategy will look to encourage diversity in the workforce, upskilling and a co-ordinated national approach to training.
Talking about the role major projects play in attracting young people to the rail sector and the importance of ministers demonstrating a commitment to these schemes, McLoughlin said, ’There’s no doubt about the big projects. London Bridge, the electrification of the Great Western, and as I say Midland Main Line and Trans Pennine route are paused they’re not stopped. They’re how do we get the best deal for both the taxpayer and also the travelling public.’
Network Rail is investing £55 million in seven new training centres around the country in Basingstoke, York, Swindon, Larbert in Scotland, Walsall, Bristol and Paddock Wood in Kent.
Says chief executive Mark Carne, ‘We need a highly skilled workforce to enable us to deliver our multi-billion pound railway upgrade plan and a network fit for the 21st century.
‘That’s why we have a steadfast commitment to training and developing everyone from apprentices and graduates to up-skilling our 35,000-strong workforce and others across the industry with the latest digital, technical and engineering skills.
‘We know this investment pays off with 83 per cent of the 2,000 apprentices trained since 2005 still working for us and contributing to a safer and better railway every day.’