With the UK rail industry facing the challenge of an ageing workforce, Glen Lambert. Head of School, for Construction, Science and Engineering at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL), spoke to Rail Technology Magazine (RTM) recently about how investing in apprenticeships can fill this gap.
The UK rail engineering industry is facing a huge skills shortage in the face of multi-billion pound Government investment to improve the rail network over the coming years.
In its article Creating a Younger and More Diverse Workforce Through Apprenticeships, RTM referred to a study by City & Guilds and the National Skills Academy for Rail (NSAR), which revealed that 28 per cent of rail employees are over 50 and 120,000 people will need to be recruited over the next decade.
Glen called on rail industry leaders to address the aging work population in the sector by investing more heavily in apprenticeships and explained how CONEL is already supporting companies create a new skilled engineering workforce.
He said: “There’s been a lack of investment from employers in training young people, they prefer to go out to agencies and hire qualified and trained people, which isn’t a bad thing. But the only way we’re going to fix this skill shortage through this ageing workforce is to train new people into the industry.”
According to the City & Guilds and NSAR research, fewer than a fifth of rail employees are women, despite nearly a quarter saying they would consider a career in the sector. In a related RTM article in the same edition, Network Rail’s own research revealed an increase in female employees from BAME backgrounds.
Glen acknowledged that it was not just down to rail companies to recruit underrepresented groups but felt more involvement was needed from the industry, including having positive role models visit colleges and schools to inspire young people into rail careers.
He said: “We need to look at what the barriers are to getting people into the industry. Is it that they don’t believe that they can get there? Is it careers advice in school? How well does the rail industry engage with secondary schools for example, do they go in and do events? … We need to identify what the barriers are and how we overcome those barriers.”
CONEL is part of Capital City College Group (CCCG). Rail apprentices are trained at the college’s huge engineering provision at its Enfield Centre, which includes the London Rail Academy. Most are recruited directly by rail companies, while others are existing engineering students or recruited by Capital City College Training (CCCT), which is also part of CCCG,