Driving the skills debate

PLANTWORX is one of the UK's largest live, working construction events, providing the ultimate opportunity to demonstrate machine innovation and technology.

Experts from across the construction and transport sectors will attend next year’s Plantworx exhibition to discuss how they can work better together to meet the demand for engineering and professional skills.

A skills conference will be held in the Indoor Arena on the final day of the exhibition, which is taking place at the East of England Arena, Peterborough, from 11-13 June 2019. The conference will be supported by expert speakers from the Department for Transport (DfT) and Highways England.

Railworx, a new area dedicated to rail civils innovation and technology, will run alongside the 2019 Plantworx exhibition, highlighting the current high level of rail infrastructure investment in the UK.

In 2015, a piece of industry-led research* suggested that if the rail sector’s skills gap wasn’t addressed it could potentially cost the British economy more than £1 billion a year by 2034 through delayed or cancelled rail investment.

Both the rail and construction sectors are looking to address skills shortages within their respective sectors. The labour demand for HS2 will put additional pressure on both. 

The HS2 Skills, Employment and Education Strategy** has estimated that around 30,000 people will be required during peak construction in 2021/22 on Phase One and Phase 2a of the project between London, Birmingham and Crewe. HS2 also estimates that an additional 7,200 engineering and technical workers will be needed in high-speed rail by 2020.

Network Rail’s group HR director, Alison Rumsey, and the chief executive of the National College for High Speed Rail (NCHSR), Clair Mowbray, will discuss the challenges facing rail and consider what measures businesses can take to attract new talent to the sector.

Day three of Plantworx 2019 will also welcome the return of Student Day, where Plantworx and Railworx will invite children from the surrounding area to visit the show to gain an insight into the exciting opportunities that exist within the construction and rail sectors. The show will also host Primary Engineer once again – an exciting STEM outreach event involving local primary and secondary schools.

Plantworx is also investigating the possibility of running a ‘young plant operators’ demonstration on the Thursday.  The idea has been well received by many young operators who are keen to encourage other youngsters into the industry – many have already pledged their support and the Plantworx team is working with them and manufacturerers to make this happen. 

Plantworx is organised by the Construction Equipment Association (CEA) – the trade association that represents the UK’s construction equipment sector.

Rob Oliver, chief executive of the CEA, said: “While Plantworx has always been a forum for technical innovation, we also want to recognise that none of this would be possible without a highly skilled, well trained technical workforce. The construction and rail sectors both have their own distinctive skills shortages, from the ground up, but share many of the same challenges. Both can benefit from working together and sharing ideas.”

Jolene Price, events director at Rail Media – the organiser of Railworx – said: “The rail industry has pronounced skills shortages in a number of areas and, over the past few years, various steps have been taken to draw up a comprehensive strategy which will make rail more attractive to future generations. 

“But this issue must be approached by the transport and engineering sectors collectively. The UK needs engineering skills across all sectors, not just rail. Plantworx and Railworx provide a great venue to have this debate as it will attract businesses and associations from across a variety of sectors.”

* https://www.rssb.co.uk/Library/research-development-and-innovation/The-cost-of-not-addressing-skills-issues-in-the-rail-sector-RSSB-NSAR-Atkins-October-2015.pdf

** https://www.hs2.org.uk/documents/hs2-skills-employment-and-education-strategy/

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0