Over the past few years transport infrastructure has been at the heart of the UK’s gradual economic recovery. With an ambitious pipeline of projects lying in wait, the magnitude of which have not been seen for a generation, a key issue for the roads sector will be its ability to deliver the quantum of skilled professionals needed to deliver on the ground.
A range of major schemes including the Lower Thames Crossing, A303 Stonehenge, Silvertown Crossing and the A9 corridor form an exciting pipeline of vital projects that are likely to apply pressure across the sector for years to come. The National Infrastructure Plan for Skills, which was introduced last year, goes some way towards mapping expertise against this pipeline of projects and serves to inform recruitment strategies in boardrooms across the UK. However many of these projects are likely to draw on similar areas of the supply chain in parallel, meaning an integrated approach to planning is needed that will require government and industry to work closer together in order to develop the necessary skills.
Attracting talent through a variety of different routes will be key to building this enhanced capacity. The Modern Apprentices that industry invests in now will be ready to play a meaningful role on projects in two or three years’ time – precisely when they will be needed most. Recognising this, AECOM has increased its apprenticeship recruitment and will be hiring more apprentices than ever this coming year. Our Apprenticeship Development Programme will include training for specialist skills that we know will be needed to deliver future projects, whilst we are working closely with the Technician Apprenticeship Consortium (TAC) to develop new apprenticeship programmes for high demand transportation disciplines such as transport planning and rail.
There is a danger of course that industry will merely compete for this existing talent, so we need to think differently and more broadly if we are to meet the challenges we face. To achieve success, we need to learn and adapt quickly. Clients look to global companies like AECOM to have a diverse workforce and recognise that innovation in delivery is enhanced by our ability to draw from a wealth of different backgrounds and experiences. By developing a more inclusive culture industry can increase its capacity and performance by creating opportunities that allow the workforce to reach its full potential, which in turn will enable it to better understand and respond to client’s needs. For example, the qualities that servicemen and women possess are hugely relevant to firms working in the built environment. The armed forces are divided into many specialist units that must co-operate to complete highly complex tasks. They are often experienced at motivating others, co-ordinating teams and getting the best out of individuals – all essential traits that are directly applicable to the provision of integrated, multidisciplinary services such as those offered by AECOM.
Increasing capacity is only one aspect of the challenge of course. Equipping an expanding workforce to meet the technical and leadership needs of any future pipeline will require agility and innovation. At AECOM, the development of our online University has provided our workforce with access to over 5,000 courses in 10 different languages. Accessible via a cloud, this virtual campus enables employees to develop their competencies and expertise in facilitated classrooms and at their own convenience.
Companies that are able to think differently, work collaboratively and see beyond their own immediate resourcing needs, stand to gain a lot.
Dave Beddell – European market sector leader for Strategic highways, AECOM