Speaking to civil engineering contractors at the London Transport Museum yesterday (30 November), Transport Secretary Chris Grayling (pictured) said the highways industry will need an extra 15,000 professionals by 2020.
“2020 is the the year that road investment hits peak construction, he remarked. “By then, we’ll need an extra 15,000 road-building professionals of all kinds, including thousands of new engineers.”
Also in 2020, Transport for London hits a peak construction phase, and will need a further 8,000 construction professionals, including thousands more engineers.
Mr Grayling also pointed to Phase One of HS2 which will need an extra 27,000 construction professionals, including over 8,000 engineers.
He continued: “In total, we think to get all this work done, we’ll need an extra 56,000 skilled workers. And the demand won’t fall once we get past 2020. That’s also the year we begin our second Road Investment Strategy.
“And we’ll be preparing for the start of construction for HS2 Phase 2 – the two lines to the North, a far bigger project than Phase 1. And we’ll be pressing ahead with plans for Crossrail 2. And we should expect Heathrow’s 3rd runway to start construction around 2022. This shortage we’re facing is one compounded by demography.”
The Transport Secretary wants to see greater diversity in engineering, adding: “I would like to see more women engineers. And more black and minority ethnic engineers. Fewer than one in 10 engineers in our country are women. And just four per cent are from ethnic minorities.
“Yet look at the other professions, such as law, or medicine, the situation is very different indeed. If we’re going to solve the skills shortage, we need that kind of parity in engineering, too.”
Despite this, Mr Grayling remains confident that the skills shortage will be solved and called on companies operating in this field to play their part.
“If you want to win contracts in transport and want to be part of the government’s investment programme then you must prepare to leave a skills footprint in this country.
We want to see that you’re thinking about the future of the industry. We want to see that by the end of the contract, your company will have greater depth in skills than at the beginning.
“That means investing in training. It means hiring more apprentices. It means hiring from a wider pool of talent. And it means we’re setting some minimum standards.”
Earlier this year the government published its Transport Infrastructure Skills Strategy, which pledged to create more than 30,000 apprenticeship places across the road and rail industry by 2020.
Firms bidding for transport contracts must:
- Either hire and train one apprentice for every £3 to £5 million of the contract’s value;
- Or, for every 200 people employed under the contract, create five apprenticeships for each year of the project.
Every apprentice employed on a project, whether by contractor or sub-contractor, will count towards the target.
Mr Grayling confirmed that Mike Brown, commissioner of Transport for London, has agreed to chair the government’s Strategic Transport Apprenticeship Taskforce.
“We set up the taskforce this year to help address the skills challenge in a coordinated way, drawing on ideas and experience across the transport industry, and to monitor the progress we’re making. Mike will continue to drive the collaboration that we started when we published the strategy. And he will hold us all to account on progress, starting by publishing an Annual Report in the spring.”