How can we make railway engineering seem sexy?February 9th, 2011 by Simon Haddock
Luckily, the rail industry escaped the worst of the government cuts and projects such as Crossrail and electrification, which had seemed to be in jeopardy, will now go ahead. In fact it looks as if there’ll be plenty of projects to keep skilled rail workers busy for at least the next ten years.
There’s just one small fly in the ointment. Will there be enough people to work on these projects? Despite around 100 private providers and colleges offering training, we are in danger of seeing a severe skills shortage.
At the end of last year, Vince Cable gave the government’s backing to the National Skills Academy for Rail Engineering which is expected to go into operation later this year. One of Nsare’s missions is to entice more young people into the rail industry.
Gil Howarth, Nsare’s programme director explained that this would be a considerable challenge. Railway engineering isn’t seen as sexy, he pointed out. People going into engineering find options like Formula One or aerospace sexier. So how is he going to attract 1,000 people each year into rail?
A team of young engineer ambassadors have been recruited to spread the word in educational institutions. Nsare will work together with the Lloyds Register Educational Trust and the Smallpeice Trust, a charity that promotes engineering careers, to offer Easter residential courses to secondary school children. The idea behind these is to demonstrate that the railway industry is no longer about an oily rag and a steam engine and that people can enjoy a rewarding career if they take up competency based training in railway engineering.
But will this be enough to entice enough people into the industry? How can we shake off the oily rag image and make railway engineering sexy?