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Safe Work Leaders - more hiring headaches ahead but rich pickings for contractors

The implementation of the Safe Work Leaders initiative, whereby Network Rail will have a single accountable person for the safe delivery of work, could have major implications for an already skill short sector.
That’s according to recruitment firm One Way which supplies staff into the rail sector and which has been operating in the construction field for ten years.
“Network Rail has introduced this scheme for all the right reasons – but who is actually going to do the work that needs to be safely delivered! This could cause further hiring and workforce planning issues for a sector that is already facing fierce competition for skilled workers and which already struggles to source candidates with the right qualifications and experience”, says Nicholas Anderson of One Way’s Rail Division.

“While any initiative aimed at improving safety must be applauded, it is already too late to solve other skills shortages. In the maintenance area alone we have an ageing workforce where almost 5000 workers will retire over the next ten years and obviously we are not talking about mere replacement numbers here – but the additional workers needed because of the increased investment in infrastructure – it is a ticking time bomb.”

It is easy to understand Anderson’s concern when according to recent TUC figures; HS2 will create 25,000 construction jobs but just 16 per cent of apprenticeships currently on offer link to the trades and occupations needed for high speed rail construction.
However, what this does mean is that rates for skilled contractors in the rail sector are at an all-time high and according to NoPalaver Group, which provides accounting services to contractors, average pay has increased by almost 75% in the last three years.

“Contractors can pick and choose where they want to work”, says Anderson – it’s a simple supply and demand issue and that is bound to drive up rates and while we do have a large number of migrant workers in the rail sector, we also have to remember that workforces are now globally mobile – and rail infrastructure projects are going on all over the world. It is not just attraction and recruitment that is the problem – it’s retention!”


Tracey Barrett
BlueSky PR
0771 2281631

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