Call for skills and diversity push

March 14 2018  

Call for skills and diversity push
Efforts must be stepped up to promote careers in the highways industry to young people and improve diversity in the sector, delegates were urged at the CIHT Annual Conference in London last week.
 
The Institution’s chief executive Sue Percy told attendees to conference – which took place during National Apprenticeship Week – that better communication is needed to attract new, diverse talent into the sector.
 
“We have to talk about our profession in an exciting way, because it offers fabulous careers and we don’t communicate that effectively at the moment,” she said. “We need to be able to demonstrate much more clearly the contribution that transport can make to some of the really big societal issues.”
 
Kier Highways executive director Dave Wright echoed Sue’s call for better communication and, during a morning plenary panel session, said: “We have a fantastic industry but we don’t sell it well enough.”
 
He urged the industry to work together with clients, the supply chain and others to address skills shortages and attract new people into the sector.
 
When asked what qualities he looks for when recruiting new people, Dave Wright responded: “It’s individuals who have shown willingness to change, learn, be flexible and have the right attitude. Sometimes you may have to take a chance on someone; but I am a great believer that if you give the youth a chance, they will come through.”
 
The conference also heard from WSP’s director of public services Matthew Lugg. He said: “In my career, I came through a hierarchical structure within local government where you had to have certain qualifications to get to the next step. But I think these days organisations are more agile and good people will shine though, whatever skills and qualifications they have, if they are ambitious enough.”
 
He also pointed out: “We can no longer rely on the graduate intake alone and must recognise that we need people from a wide range of abilities and different skills bases. We have to reach out to schools and young people and demonstrate what an exciting, challenging and fulfilling career people can have in our sector.”
 
Skanska Civil Engineering’s director of strategy and operational excellence Dana Skelley welcomed the recent resurgence of apprenticeships and said: “A barrier to diversity is prescribing routes into the profession.”
 
She also advocated that young professionals challenge their organisations to introduce ‘reverse mentoring programmes’, where those being trained give advice to more senior members of staff based on their experiences.
 
(Photo: STEM Learning)

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