Highways UK today publishes its skills survey and I am really pleased that Highways UK has brought together the sector to deliver this important work. The skills survey provides an evidence base and highlights some of the critical areas where we – Government, industry and the education sector – need to make real and rapid progress.
This is both a challenge and a huge opportunity. Investment in the roads sector is set to increase by 20% to nearly £6bn per annum within the next four years, with a near-doubling of investment on the Strategic Road Network (SRN).
We know from previous work that there is a shortfall in our current workforce, and Highways England estimates the need for an additional 12,000 people working across the SRN within the next four years, that is more than a 50% increase on the current workforce of 21,000.
This means opportunities for many more people, not only new entrants to our sector, but also opportunities for our existing workforce to develop their skills further. In an increasingly digital world there will be a demand for new types of skills as, for example, intelligent infrastructure technology becomes part of mainstream delivery solutions.
But in order to make the most of these opportunities we must take the longer term view and invest in skills. Greater investment certainty, and the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in May this year will help. In transport we are already on the front foot as we implement our Transport Infrastructure Skills Strategy, together with Highways England and our other infrastructure client bodies, driving skills through procurement and working towards ambitious targets.
Now, thanks to this survey, the Highways Sector knows where it needs to focus its efforts in detail.
I am particularly struck by the need to tackle the lack of diversity. We have to do this if we are to access the full spectrum of talent that we need. And we need to do this early – promoting the breadth of exciting careers on offer to children in schools from a young age when we know that they begin to make conscious or unconscious choices about their future. But we also need to make sure that when we welcome new entrants, the working environment we offer is as inclusive as possible so that they are encouraged to stay.
This is not quick work and is only something we can achieve by working together.
So I urge you to continue to collaborate. Take this survey as a call to action to make the sector fit for the future – a dynamic and rewarding work environment; highly productive; and equipped to deliver beyond expectation.
Patricia Hayes is Director General, Roads, Devolution and Motoring at the Department for Transport
Download the Highways UK Skills Survey
Highways UK 2017 takes place at NEC, Birmingham on 8/9 November. It has convened a Skills Forum including representatives from DfT, Highways England, CIHT, Transport Systems Catapult, Jacobs and engineering recruitment specialist matchtech to develop the main content programme around the skills agenda and making the sector fit for the future.
Patricia Hayes – Director General, Roads, Devolution and Motoring, Department for Transport