Thoughts on post-Brexit rail sector

I was recently asked by the Waterfront Conference Company for my thoughts on a post-Brexit rail industry. Whilst the sector is experiencing a skills shortage, I believe that the solution is through the introduction of new technology. Here’s an excerpt from the questions they posed, along with my answers.

What should the railway industry be doing now to be prepared for possible implication post-Brexit?

Operation of the UK rail network is better insulated from Brexit than many other sectors. Operational impact is only likely to come from the supply chain, where as for other sectors, understating the implications for the transport of raw materials and parts would be prudent.

Is the rail sector losing young people to more attractive sectors? Why?

I would say that rather than losing young people, the industry is failing to attract young people. I believe there are two reasons for this, firstly the industry does not project the opportunities it offers effectively, and secondly, it also fails to look beyond traditional routes into rail. In the technology and financial services sector there has been a shift to recruiting from non traditional skills such as the creative arts.

How can you better prepare your staff for digital advances and new technology?

Training is the obvious answer, but the move to digital is also a cultural change as much as it is skills based. Informing staff of the why of digital is just as important as the what.

What are the main challenges when hiring and training new staff?

I believe lack of knowledge of the opportunities offered by the industry is one of the main reasons people, particularly young people, are not attracted to the industry. To attract and retain the best staff those candidates must want to work in the sector. Better alignment to the aspirations and goals of the target demographic would go a long was to increasing the pool of available talent.