Research commissioned by Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) shows how the region will need to find an estimated 60,000 new workers to help design, build and operate the region’s rail, road, bus and tram networks over the next 15 years.
But while the report by the National Skills Academy for Rail highlights the huge job opportunities for those with the right training it also sets out the scale of the challenge in closing the region’s existing transport skills gap.
The Rail Training Centre at the City of Wolverhampton College is just one of the initiatives that the WMCA is helping to develop to train the region's transport workers of the future
Now TfWM, which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), has launched a Transport Skills Academy programme to work with the transport industry and training providers to ensure the region’s young people can gain the wide range of skills needed to take up well-paid and secure jobs in the sector.
Key projects such as HS2 and TfWM’s own £1.3 billion, five-year infrastructure investment programme means there will be an unprecedented demand for skilled workers.
This growing workforce will be required across a range of careers including software designers and engineers, digital specialists, transport planning and design, construction and maintenance and day-to-day operations.
If retained in the West Midlands, the estimated 60,000 jobs by 2035 would be worth more than £1.7 billion in social value to the region.
The Transport Skills Academy will pull together the range of work experience, training and apprenticeship opportunities already available, as well as seek out new opportunities and programmes to further close the skills gap and meet demands for work.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA Chair, said: “A key part of my mayoral mission is to ensure that young people right across our region can access high quality and well paid job opportunities. The sheer scale of transport infrastructure projects underway here is quite remarkable and will unlock new employment avenues for local residents.
“Whether it’s HS2 - under construction and already employing 7,000 people - or the unprecedented investment into our transport system over the next decade - including new railway stations, tram lines, bus services and cycle routes – there is a lot to get involved with.
“Our region has already made great progress in providing pathways into the transport workforce – for example through the Rail Training Centre at the City of Wolverhampton College and the electric vehicle training centre in Walsall. Now this new Transport Skills Academy will enable us – alongside our partners in industry - to develop even more vital training schemes that help us to continue to make the most of our investment in transport.”
The need for new workers is also being driven by an ageing workforce in the transport industry. Of the 41,783 workers in the region’s road, rail and bus sectors, 35% are over the age of 50 and nearing retirement.
At the same time, fewer than 13% are under 30, meaning there are significant opportunities for the region’s younger people. Women and black and minority ethnic people are also under-represented compared to the wider West Midlands population among the existing workforce.
Cllr Ian Ward, WMCA portfolio holder for transport and leader of Birmingham City Council, added: “As well as the traditional roles in transport planning, design and construction, TfWM and its partners are also working on cutting edge technology developing the low-carbon transport systems of the future.
“This includes electric battery technology, autonomous cars, smart ticketing systems and new transport modes like very light rail. These and further innovations could require jobs which don’t even exist yet.
“So, it is clear we will need a highly skilled and adaptable workforce to make the most of these opportunities and position the region as the home of the green transport revolution.
“And our Transport Skills Academy will set out to do just that.”