High Speed Railway project expected to create thousands of jobs, but skills shortage is a concern...

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet has given its approval for the whole of the HS2 (High Speed 2) high-speed train line to go ahead. Work is expected to start within weeks and the project is anticipated to boost employment opportunities across the country.

Following the announcement, the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) warned that the success of the mammoth project pivots on the availability of skills.

Tania Bowers, Legal Counsel at APSCo, said, “There is no doubt that a huge infrastructure project such as HS2 will have a positive impact on employment opportunities across the UK, both during construction and beyond. The resulting high-speed rail line has the potential to boost investment across the Midlands and the North of England so that all regions of the UK can contribute to the country’s future prosperity. However, the success of the project firmly pivots on the availability of specialist skills.”

Bowers added that the project will require professionals from overseas, adding that “there needs to be wider application or another visa route for the technically highly-skilled working in shortage occupations.”

“A significant volume and calibre of professionals are required to deliver the vision we have been promised: it has previously been suggested that the first phase of the build alone is expected to support around 40,000 jobs – and many of these are in specialisms already experiencing acute skills shortages such as engineering and construction,” Bowers said.

Adrian Adair, COO of the Morson Group, said, “The recruitment industry has been poised and ready to help attract, train and deploy the thousands of technical skillsets needed to deliver HS2, and the green light from the Prime Minister has finally given us the confidence and reassurance that the infrastructure project will become a reality.”

“The skills gap is the biggest barrier to HS2,” Adair said.

“The impact of Brexit has also meant further losses to the available skillsets to draw from, meaning now, more than ever, we need to broaden our talent pools into overseas markets to plug this gap. Mr Johnson’s recent announcement to launch an Australian-style points-based immigration system could help to alleviate this pressure, with us able to attract much-needed talent that’s sensitive to the needs of HS2,” Adair said.

“What’s clear is that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. But what is certain is that solving the UK’s skills problem should be top of the supply chain’s agenda to unleash HS2’s true potential in building a healthy and resilient UK economy,” Adair said.

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2nd February