Highways UK Skills Survey report
31 March 2017
New skills survey “a call to action” to make the highways sector fit for the future
Andrew Dowding, Highways UK
Andrew Dowding, Highways UK
A new report describes the Highways industry skills gap as a ‘ticking time bomb’. The Highways UK skills survey, published on 30 March 2017, found that nearly three-quarters (71%) of people within the highways sector are concerned or very concerned that staff shortages within their organisations could impact delivery of client programmes, and 61% expect their companies to decline opportunities to tender for work due to insufficient internal resources.
The findings raise critical concerns over the highways sector’s ability to deliver the Government’s ambitious five-year Roads Investment Strategy. Investment is set to increase by 20% to nearly £6bn per annum within the next four years, with a near-doubling of spending on the Strategic Road Network (SRN).
“Previous work on the skills gap in construction and infrastructure has looked across the entire sector,” says Paul Wheeler, content director with Highways UK. “And while this produces eye-wateringly scary headlines, the analysis has not drilled down sufficiently to allow an informed view on what that means in terms of delivering projects on the ground within individual sectors, such as Highways.”
The Highways UK survey identifies where employers and employees within the highways sector consider skills shortages to be most acute. More than half (51%) identified the shortage of core engineering design and ancillary design capability (such as BIM, ITS, environment) to be severe or very severe. And 70% believe the most critical skills shortfall is among those with five to 15 years’ experience. Respondents believe the problem will get worse not better over the next decade.
The report argues that in an increasingly digital world there will be a demand for new types of skills as, for example, intelligent infrastructure becomes part of mainstream delivery solutions. Yet the survey found only 7% think the sector has the right technology skills to support the emerging use of connected and autonomous vehicles.
But the report presents the looming skills crisis as both a challenge and an opportunity; the opportunity being to bring new entrants to the sector and for the existing workforce to develop their skills further. There is also an opportunity to use Government’s increased investment to improve the sector’s low productivity by innovating to use resources in a smarter and more effective way.
Writing in the report’s foreword, Tricia Hayes, the Department for Transport’s director general for roads says “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. This is not quick work and is only something that we can achieve by working together. Take this survey as a call to action to make the sector fit for the future.”
The report download link is:
Enquiries: Paul Wheeler 07985 575197, firstname.lastname@example.org