Opinion Former Article

Contractors commit to apprentice focus

Efforts to boost the number of young people joining the transportation sector were given a lift last week as several leading contractors and service providers gathered to commit to the work of the Strategic Transport Apprenticeship Taskforce.

Senior leaders from Balfour Beatty, Costain, Kier and Skanska were among an audience of 70 who heard Transport Minister John Hayes speak about plans to deliver 35,000 transport apprentices by 2022.

The scope for several companies to offer shared training for apprentices was one of the points raised for further investigation in a group discussion. Another was the need for human resources professionals not to fall foul of ‘unconscious biases’ when promoting work opportunities, to ensure that women and ethnic minority groups are not put off applying for roles.

The audience was asked to identify barriers to inclusive recruitment in their firms and adjust recruitment models or selection criteria accordingly, to ensure diverse groups are fairly represented. It was also said that criteria contained on job descriptions such as the need for ‘experience of transport and infrastructure’ should not be listed as ‘essential’ where it is not necessary for the role.

Another point raised was that the sector must ensure it does not inadvertently undermine the drive to recruit more apprentices by demanding an unnecessarily high level of skills from applicants.

It was also said that it is “still early days” in the ambition to make work a new Government levy that demands 0.5% of the annual payroll of firms with a wage bill of over £3M for reinvestment in training and apprenticeships.

Clients represented at the event included Transport for London, whose Commissioner Mike Brown chairs the Strategic Transport Apprenticeship Taskforce and High Speed 2’s head of equality and diversity Mark Lomas.

Skanska’s director of strategy and operational excellence Dana Skelley, who led a series of discussions on the day, said: “It was an inclusive and positive event and a follow up is planned for the New Year.”

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