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Jacobs: Investing in the future

On multibillion-pound megaprojects across the globe, clients are relying on the technical expertise of professional services firm Jacobs to overcome their biggest challenges. 

Whether it’s this core capability or programme management, strategic consultancy, intelligent infrastructure advisory, organisational design, environment or sustainability services, Jacobs is helping to connect communities and allow cities to thrive by taking these schemes over the finish line. 

In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Jacobs is a key partner in developing the country’s Etihad Rail project, which – with plans to construct 900km of new railways – will be the UAE’s largest and most significant freight and passenger network. 

In South-East Asia, Jacobs’ design services have been called upon for the construction of a 350km high-speed line between Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and Singapore – the first of its kind in that part of the world. 

Jacobs is also assisting with a study into hydrogen-powered trains on Toronto’s GO rail network in Canada, the Victoria Rail Improvement programme in Australia and, at home, HS2 – Europe’s largest infrastructure project.

HS2 Ltd and companies contracted to build the high-speed line – an integral part of the UK’s future transport network and economic prosperity – have enlisted Jacobs’ help for a variety of roles since 2010, including for design work on the 15km twin-bore Chiltern Tunnel. 


The successful acquisition of CH2M in 2017 integrated additional talent into Jacobs’ ranks. The move saw its rail, geotechnical, transport planning and environmental workforce double and its tunnelling expertise and rolling stock advisory and digital consulting know-how expanded.

Nevertheless, such is the size of the professional service leader’s portfolio of domestic and international projects, and the subsequent demand for technical, leadership and scientific minds, that Jacobs provides career enriching development opportunities for all levels to attract and retain the best talent.

Work on HS2 is enabling the company to enhance its apprenticeship offering, notably in its Birmingham office, with apprentices working on all of its HS2 commissions. Apprenticeships as well as graduate and intern programmes form a key part of this recruitment drive.

John Downer, Jacobs’ director of sales for rail, said: “We believe that investing in the skills development of apprentices is an investment in the future of our business and the future of the industry. We are training more than 140 UK apprentices at any one time, and have more than 850 graduates, technicians and apprentices currently training with us in the UK. 

“We are involved in a variety of training innovations and trailblazer programmes across rail, construction, transport planning and other disciplines.

“We guide our apprentices through practical, ‘on-the-job’ development, fully supported by buddies or mentors from day one.  Many of our apprentices progress to technician and onwards to higher education and professional registration.”

He added: “These early years opportunities are crucial to helping us bring future talent into the wide-ranging careers we offer, shape our future leaders and support our strategy to grow diverse skills and capability and foster innovation.”

In a sign of further support for apprenticeships, not just within the business but in the industry, Jacobs has sponsored the Apprentice of the Year category at the 2019 RailStaff Awards. 

“We have sponsored the apprentice category as it is so meaningful for the industry,” said John. “The skills shortage is the single most influential factor that will hold back the UK in bridging our productivity gap, so an industry and indeed an organisation that invests in future skills will be more resilient and more likely to grow sustainably.”

Inclusion & diversity

Concentrating on its workforce, another priority for Jacobs is inclusion and diversity (I&D). 

At a global level, the company is making measurable progress, with 45 per cent of Jacobs’ board of directors and 75 per cent of its executive leadership team represented by diverse directors and executives. Jacobs also has a European Inclusion & Diversity Council and recently appointed a new I&D lead to oversee I&D implementation in its European business. 

This year it hosted an inaugural Inclusion Week to increase employee awareness of the value of having an inclusive and diverse workforce and is currently introducing mandatory conscious inclusion training for all employees.

John added: “We believe that our committed approach to inclusion and diversity supports an environment where employees will thrive. It enhances the richness of our client offerings, and it’s critical to achieving our strategic and financial commitments.” 

To nominate one of your colleagues or to find out more information, head to www.railstaffawards.com