Transport skills shortage and diversity top of the agenda for TfL boss

Transport for London commissioner Mike Brown has said attracting new talent into the industry and addressing diversity in the organisation’s workforce are two of his main priorities as the man responsible for keeping London moving.

Speaking at the Skills Summit 2018, hosted by the Association for Consultancy and Engineering in London, Brown talked about his various roles as commissioner and chair of the National Skills Academy for Rail and what ways the organisations attempted to plug the skills gap. He said narrowing the skills gap was vital in ensuring major transport infrastructure projects are delivered in the capital and across the country.

The TfL commissioner said “now is the time” to support the wider supply chain so companies are encouraged to increase apprenticeship opportunities. Brown believes a ‘stick and carrot’ approach is needed with the stick being encouraging companies to do the right thing and embed procurement specifications so there are enough apprenticeship programs. The carrot being the business case and ensuring firms are provided with the right information and possible benefits. He conceded TfL did face a significant skills gap and the country needed the confidence to deliver big projects like HS2 if it is to solve the skills gap. 

Speaking at the summit, Brown added: “It is anticipated that there will be a shortfall of more than 55,000 people equipped to work in transport infrastructure by 2020 - that is a massive challenge if we are to deliver massive projects and day-to-day jobs. Since 2009, TfL, Crossrail, their suppliers and the London Transport Museum have employed more than 8,200 apprentices but we must do more to inspire young people to join the transport industry.”

Potential projects like Crossrail 2 and the Bakerloo Line extension are vital to addressing skills shortages with the schemes having the capacity to support 60,000 and 5,000 jobs respectively, according to the TfL boss. 

Brown added: “It’s vital that we have high-quality training and resources available to those entering the industry so that we not only have a skilled workforce delivering projects but that we seize the opportunity to bring underrepresented groups into our workforce.”

Two of the key challenges discussed at the summit were the issues of diversity and inclusion. The audience heard how TfL has a Supplier Skills programme, which partners with organisations such as Gingerbread and Women into Construction in a bid to resolve underrepresentation. 

Discussing the programmes, Brown said: “Our partnership with Women into Construction and the charity Gingerbread to encourage more women into the transport industry has been hugely encouraging and beneficial in allowing women to enter the industry with all 16 who started it, completing it.”

Concluding his speech, Brown said that his main priority as TfL commissioner was to ensure the organisation became increasingly more diverse and representative of the society they serve.

“London is one of the most diverse cities in the world and why I believe it to be the greatest city in the world but we do face a massive challenge in the underrepresentation of women and black and ethnic minorities,” he said. “It’s simply unacceptable we are not attracting more diverse groups into our industry and it’s not only a pressing moral issue but a business imperative that we are still failing to grasp. Despite the great wealth and growth in population, there are still communities that are excluded from the success this city achieves.”

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