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News » UK » Apprentice strings to be attached to road and rail contracts » published 28 Jan 2016

Apprentice strings to be attached to road and rail contracts

Contracts let for major government transport infrastructure projects will now include targets for the creation of new apprenticeships, the government has announced.

The new policy is part of a 100-page transport skills strategy*, which sets out how government proposes to create 30,000 apprenticeships in road and rail sector by 2020.

From March 2016, apprenticeship targets will be written into all contracts delivering government’s rail and road investment programme.

And an affirmative action programme introduces targets for the proportion of women employed in engineering and technical apprenticeships in the transport sector. The aim is that by 2030 the ratio of men to women in engineering/technical roles in the transport sector will be in proportion to the ratio of working men to women overall.

The Department for Transport, along with Highways England and Network Rail, will now work with their suppliers to put apprenticeships terms into contracts. Depending on the contract, this means suppliers will either create one apprenticeship for every £3m-£5m of taxpayers’ money spent, or deliver a percentage increase in the number of apprentices employed each year during the lifetime of the contract. In these cases the aim is that the number of apprenticeships created each year will equal 2.5% of the workforce, so for every 200 people employed, five apprenticeships will be created each year.

The strategy was drawn up for the government by Crossrail chairman Terry Morgan. Crossrail has used contract arrangements to create more than 500 apprenticeships since construction began in 2009.

Mr Morgan said: “As we have seen on Crossrail, by working with our suppliers we can help young people begin long and successful careers in an exciting and nationally important sector.

“To create a workforce capable of delivering the unprecedented number of transport projects in the pipeline it is vital we increase the number of apprentices and attract more women into the industry. This skills strategy is a huge step in the right direction, but all of us, from parents and teachers to chief executives and industry leaders have a role to play to help the next generation grab the exciting opportunities on offer.”

Women represent just 20% of employees in the rail industry as a whole and only 4.4% of rail engineering roles. Agreement has been reached with Network Rail, Highways England, HS2 Ltd, Transport for London (TfL) and Crossrail for a target for new female entrants to engineering and technical apprenticeships, either directly employed by them or by their suppliers, delivering an increase in the numbers of women employed in the transport sector, with the aim being that this should be in line with the proportion of women in work by 2030.

The government is also recommending that all organisations in the transport sector that have more than 250 employees to implement a ‘returnship’ programme to make it easier for people, and women in particular, to return to work after time out. Research by the Women’s Business Council showed there are more than 2.4 million women who are not in work but want to work, and more than 1.3 million women who want to increase the number of hours they work.

Network Rail is itself currently looking to recruit 150 apprentices this year. Last year, it received more than 3,500 applications for its three-year scheme. Over the past 10 years, more than 2,000 people have joined Network Rail’s Advanced Apprenticeship scheme, of whom 85% still work for the organisation.


* Transport Infrastructure Skills Strategy: building sustainable skills, moving Britain ahead    (link opens pdf document)




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This article was published on 28 Jan 2016 (last updated on 1 Feb 2016).

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