How will the needs of Britain’s workforce be met post-Brexit?

‘According to Engineering UK, Britain will need at least 182,000 people with engineering skills each year until 2022 to deliver major projects such as HS2.

With the government’s industrial strategy also promising further investment in infrastructure, and a final deal on Brexit still a long way off, questions remain over where this skilled workforce will come from. Those questions were explored at a Guardian seminar, supported by Alstom, at Birmingham’s Council House on 30 March 2017.

Terry Morgan, who chairs Crossrail, was one of the six experts on the panel and took an optimistic view of UK industrial capabilities beyond Brexit: “We’re in a boom at the moment and transport infrastructure is seen as a fundamental way to grow the economy,” he said. “The rail sector has five or six capabilities at the moment that no one else has got. The rest of the world is very hungry to learn from what we do – it’s very exportable.” 

But this picture comes tempered with a warning. “The UK is facing a skills shortage within construction, engineering and technician roles,” said Julie Ward, MEP and keynote speaker at the event. “If we have skills shortages now, then any future restriction on the movements of EU international skilled workers through Brexit will seriously hamper the successful delivery of these projects and regional prosperity.” …

New skills are needed to be a 21st-century engineer. “The industry is moving from away hammer and spanner to laptops and data analysis,” noted Alex Burrows, Alstom’s marketing and strategy director.

Professor Clive Roberts, railway systems director of the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education, agreed, adding that what the transport industry increasingly needs are people who are digitally competent. In future, he said, staff would need to be comfortable handling data and having to make decision based upon fact and evidence, “rather than simply having lots of [engineering] experience”.’ - Guardian


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