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Do we have the skills to deliver HS2?

hs2 skills

Rebekah Valero-Lee HS2


Our Ops Director, Adrian Adair, gives us an insight on HS2 skills and the rail sector at the moment.

It’s an exciting time to be working in rail with confidence in the sector at its highest. Crossrail, which is nearing its final stages and the soon to commence HS2 projects, are just two of the landmark schemes that are helping the sector to flourish.

Looking beyond the benefits for the economy and connectivity, these projects offer contractors the opportunity to work on some of the railway’s most innovative programmes. Yet the success of these technical projects depend on us having the right skills and resources from the current talent pool. As the rail sector evolves and gathers pace, we need to make sure that we’ve the right capabilities to grow with it.

An engineer’s role is constantly changing. New technology and software has developed niche skill sets that we wouldn’t have needed 10 years ago, like BIM for example. Now a Government requirement for public sector projects, BIM has progressed from a ‘nice to have’ to a delivery priority. Here at Morson, we’ve seen a growing need for people with specialist software skills in the converging engineering and technology space.

As Europe’s biggest infrastructure project, HS2 involves 15 years of construction, a £55.7billion investment, nine major new railway stations and more than 350 miles of new track, bridges and tunnels, as well as a new generation of high speed trains. To deliver the major design and construction task at hand, the supply chain will need around 24,000 people at its peak in the mid-2020s.

Current HS2 skills forecasts estimate that around half of these will need skills at, or above, Level 3 – the A Level equivalent. However, around 80 per cent of the UK’s construction workforce are only typically trained to a Level 2 standard.

The National College for High Speed Rail is working to bridge this gap by training around 1,000 school leavers, career changers and current contractors. It’s essential that we use HS2 to attract a younger generation into rail careers as well as upskilling existing engineers, but it’s also important that the focus spans the entirety of the UK, rather than just focussing on the major cities. We’re working closely with the College to maximise jobs and skills opportunities by upskilling future talent and leave a lasting skills legacy in the region.

Improving diversity has also been a core focus for the project, with HS2 a catalyst for change in order to improve equality, diversity and inclusion in the rail industry. Blind auditioning is one method that’s already proved successful in improving the number of women, BME and disabled candidates that make it through the application process, which involves analysing a candidates core competences before looking at their CV.

As the UK’s no.1 technical recruiter, we play a crucial role in sourcing the skills required by rail employers. Working in unison, our sister companies, Morson International, Morson Vital Training and Vital Human Resources, have a long-history of delivering white and blue collar talent to the rail sector and upskilling the next generation to leave a lasting skills legacy. We understand the evolving skill needs and have built an expert team of recruitment specialists that are able to identify contractors across different sectors with the right capabilities.

To find out more about the opportunities available or the additional skills needed to work on the HS2 project, take a look at our dedicated rail careers page or our dedicated HS2 page.