13 July 2017

Road Haulage and Rail Freight Interests Look at Transport Apprenticeships  

Future Proofing Labour for the Logistics Sector is a Major Task

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Shipping News Feature UK – According to a report by the Strategic Transport Apprenticeship Taskforce (STAT), up to 35,000 apprenticeship opportunities are set to be created over the next 5 years thanks to major investment in road and rail infrastructure and technology. The UK's freight and logistics industry has for years struggled to attract the younger generation to this most important of industries, repeatedly calling on the government for some much needed assistance. In response, the government launched STAT in April 2016 to help the transport sector address skills challenges and take forward the government's commitment to treble the number of apprenticeships in the transport industry, particularly the creation and maintenance of infrastructure for the road haulage and rail sectors, by 2020.

In the past year the road and rail sectors have delivered more than 2,000 new apprenticeships, and it is anticipated by analysts that this number could rise to between 5,000 and 8,000 every year to 2022. Large-scale projects such as HS2 and a focus on new technology and cyber security is set to increase demand for transport skills, particularly in the fields of civil engineering, traffic management and digital technology. The proposed expansion of Heathrow could also bring opportunities for an extra 10,000 apprentices across the country. Transport minister John Hayes welcomed the report, saying:

“Making our transport infrastructure the best in the world will build business and change lives for the better. Just as putting apprenticeships at the heart of this investment will seed opportunities for thousands of people. This government is taking the big transport decisions for Britain’s future like HS2 and Heathrow, delivering the biggest investment in roads and rail for a generation and equipping individuals and businesses with the skills they need to make all this happen. Better journeys creating jobs, driving investment, nurturing the common good and serving the national interest.”

The report is based on estimates that the current sector workforce comprises 220,000 people in rail and 48,000 people in road. In the roads sector, half of the workforce is in investment projects (infrastructure design and construction), with the remainder in maintenance. STAT says that it has not been able to model the operations workforce in roads as part of this exercise. In rail, 43% is in investment projects, 17% in maintenance and the remainder in operations and business management.

The industry report charts the progress of the government’s transport investment skills strategy, highlighting how the government and transport bodies, including Network Rail and Highways England are rising to the challenge of meeting demand, including:

  • better quality apprenticeships, leading to highly skilled jobs, including working with Investors in People on quality standards for employers
  • supporting people already working in transport to gain new skills, as well as returners to the industry and those looking for a career change
  • investment in jobs and skills written into contracts and rail franchise agreements
  • driving greater diversity in the industry
  • identifying exactly where and when different jobs and skills will be needed
  • working with schools to encourage routes into transport careers

According to the report, road freight could generate up to 15,000 apprenticeships next year alone whilst there are currently 1,900 ‘cadets’ (junior officers) in training in maritime, and the proposed expansion of Heathrow Airport has the potential to create 180,000 jobs and 10,000 apprenticeships across the country. New apprenticeships will be key to replacing members of the workforce that are nearing retirement with more than 50,000 rail workers reaching the age of 65 in the next 10 years. Chair of the Strategic Transport Apprenticeship Taskforce and Commissioner at Transport for London, Mike Brown, said:

"The transport sector is delivering on its promise to address the skills challenges we are facing. Skilled apprentices are vital for the future of business and it is right that the transport sector should be leading work across government.” STAT was established in April 2016 as a voluntary collaboration of transport employers, and is currently chaired by Mike Brown and previously by Simon Kirby, formerly CEO of HS2 Ltd. Members of STAT include the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), representing train operators, the Trades Union Congress (TUC), representing employees, and Heathrow Airport and the National Skills Academy for Rail (NSAR). The Taskforce recently invited participation from maritime, ports, road freight and logistics sectors.

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) also recently released its report on the skills shortage affecting the road haulage sector in particular. It found that in the fourth quarter of 2016 the average age of an LGV driver was 47.7 years, down from 48.2 a year earlier. This decrease reverses the trend observed over the previous 15 years, which saw a steady increase in average driver age, from 45.3 years back in 2001. Around 64% of large goods vehicles (LGV) drivers are 45 years or older. Only 2% of employed drivers are under 25 whereas over 12% of the total employed population (of working age) is under 25.

Latest figures published in January 2017 by the Skills Funding Agency and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills indicated that for the 12 months from August 2015 to August 2016, 5,490 people started apprenticeship programmes learning to drive goods vehicles which is an increase of 11% compared to 2014/15 but is 25% lower than 2011/12.

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