An interactive workshop by UKRLG has identified the environment as a key area for development
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As a Skills Champion for the UK Roads Leadership Group (UKRLG), I recently led an interactive workshop to determine the role of UKRLG in developing skills and competencies for the sector. In this workshop, I asked three main questions: What are the existing UKRLG tools and frameworks you currently know and use? What is missing or is currently being developed? And what more is needed?
It was recognised that over the last decade, UKRLG has played an instrumental role in establishing a number of competencies and skills frameworks for the sector. Key schemes include the Bridge Inspector Certification Scheme (BICS), the UKRLG Asset Management Framework, the Highway Inspector Competence Framework, and the Winter Decision Making Course.
Engaging discussions highlighted that the key challenge underpinning the retention and recruitment of new skills in the sector stemmed from a perception of limited career progression, attrition from the public to the private sector and the perception of it being male-dominated.
The opportunity to provide a diverse set of experiences from across the sector was also put forward as an important factor, alongside strong organisational culture and values, a supportive work-life balance and the availability of flexible working.
The green workforce
The mission of UKRLG includes aims to tackle the climate emergency and achieve net zero. To embed the wider environmental impacts and biodiversity opportunities of road construction, UKRLG strongly aligns with the ambition to develop a ‘green’ workforce that’s fit for the future, one that builds on the core engineering and planning disciplines, and has stronger integration with STEM areas such as the environment and resilience.
UKRLG members at the workshop outlined a number of key environmental areas, including the need for ‘green skills’ to enable the highways and transport industry to better understand the benefits of soft estates, trees, green space and blue space in the overall infrastructure system, as well as the need for effective cross-asset risk management.
Given broad drivers such as decarbonisation, it’s not surprising that carbon accounting and the application of PAS 2080 were identified as other areas for development, along with updating the existing code of practice to provide specific guidance on social value. Other suggestions included working with academic institutions to tailor training courses and leverage existing career pathways such as apprentice schemes and industry placements.
A wider message
Reflecting the political environment that the sector operates in, there was also an identified need around linking activities with improved customer service through effective communication.
This goes back to the challenge of implementing a wider message that the highways and transport sector can play a huge role, and will need a wide range of people with diverse skills to rapidly embed the decarbonisation and technological adoption required for the future.