Apprenticeship targets form part of transport and skills strategy

Targets for the creation of new apprenticeships will be written into contracts as the government sets out to deliver on its ambition for 30,000 apprenticeships in the road and rail sector by 2020.

Contracts let for major government transport infrastructure projects will from March 2016 include the targets, under plans presented in the government’s new transport and infrastructure skills strategy, which is being chaired by Terry Morgan – chairman of Crossrail.

The Department for Transport, alongside its delivery bodies, including Highways England and Network Rail, will now work with their suppliers to ensure apprenticeships are at the heart of contracts which will deliver the government’s multi-billion pound rail and road investment programme.

Depending on the contract, this means suppliers will either create one apprenticeship for every £3 million to £5m of taxpayers’ money spent, or deliver a percentage increase in the number of apprentices employed each year during the lifetime of the contract. In these cases the aim is that the number of apprenticeships created each year will equal 2.5% of the workforce, so for every 200 people employed, five apprenticeships will be created each year.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “Our record investment in the transport system won’t just deliver new world-class infrastructure, it will create opportunity for people across the UK by guaranteeing apprenticeships through contracts. We are creating thousands of high quality careers across the country, many of which are cutting edge, highly technical and require Britain’s best minds.

“Our skills strategy sets out what we are doing to making these job opportunities highly desirable, so we can attract the nation’s talent and equip them with the skills to deliver on our commitment to build a world class transport infrastructure system.”

Mr Morgan CBE was appointed by the government to develop the ‘transport infrastructure skills strategy’ in August 2015.

The strategy builds upon the work of major projects like Crossrail, which has used responsible contract arrangements to create hundreds of apprenticeships since construction began in 2009. Today the project has confirmed it has now created over 500 apprenticeships, well above its original target of 400 apprenticeships over the lifetime of the project.

Mr Morgan said: “As we have seen on Crossrail, by working with our suppliers we can help young people begin long and successful careers in an exciting and nationally important sector.

“To create a workforce capable of delivering the unprecedented number of transport projects in the pipeline it is vital we increase the number of apprentices and attract more women into the industry. This skills strategy is a huge step in the right direction, but all of us, from parents and teachers to chief executives and industry leaders have a role to play to help the next generation grab the exciting opportunities on offer.”

The ‘Transport infrastructure skills strategy’ is clear on the vital role women can play right across the industry. Yet women represent just 20% of employees in the rail industry as a whole and only 4.4% of rail engineering roles. The department’s skills strategy is clear that it needs more high calibre women to help deliver the unprecedented investment in transport infrastructure.

Agreement has also been reached with Network Rail, Highways England, HS2 Ltd, Transport for London (TfL) and Crossrail for a stretching target for new female entrants to engineering and technical apprenticeships, either directly employed by them or by their suppliers, delivering an increase in the numbers of women employed in the transport sector, with the aim being that this should be in line with the proportion of women in work by 2030.

Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan said: “It is an exciting time to be in the roads industry with unprecedented levels of investment from government. £15 billion is being invested in England’s motorways and major A-roads between 2015 and 2021.

“We are pleased to support the DfT transport skills strategy and growing talent for our sector will play a vital part in shaping the future of our road network. We need to be more ambitious in our recruitment and training if we are going to attract and retain the skills required to build a diverse workforce that is capable of delivering this huge amount of work.”

 

Industry reaction:

The Institute of Highway Engineers (IHE) chief executive Richard Hayes said the Institute supported the strategic measures taken by the DfT to address the skills requirements of the infrastructure sector.

“The IHE has been highlighting the skills shortage within the highways sector for sometime now and we’re pleased that the DfT has developed a strategy to address this pressing issue. Last year, the Institute took the initiative to develop the National Highways Engineering Academy (NHEA) and adopt a new approach to skills development.

“We’ll be launching the NHEA this year working alongside the All Party Parliamentary Group on Highway Maintenance and industry partners, the National Skills Academy for Rail (NSAR). As the government has acknowledged, the skills requirements of the infrastructure sector are significant and in launching the NHEA the IHE is aiming to assist the supply chain by increasing its pool of skilled talent.

“Engineering skillsets are highly desirable and transferable to other sectors such as rail so we’re also developing common skills passports between these industries to create a joined-up sector and provide more flexibility between projects. We’ve established the NHEA in a bid to address the issues outlined in the government’s strategy and call on the Minister to support our efforts.”

 

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) director general Nick Baveystock said: “ICE welcomes the government’s ambitious plans to deliver 30,000 new rail and road apprentices by 2020. Development of apprenticeships has traditionally been an area in which we have underinvested, so it is good to see progress. It is important that the apprenticeships meet an existing industry standard, such as ‘EngTech’, and are tailored to meet the technological challenges involved in delivering future transport projects.
“The strategy echoes many of ICE’s key commitments, including those to diversity and lifelong learning, and we welcome the government’s intention to commemorate 2018 as the ‘year of the engineer’.”

 

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