The essential role of rail in keeping the country moving

The rail sector is one of the UK’s most vital industries – what do we need to do to keep it on track?

15 June 2022

The railway industry in the UK has had a strong presence in headlines for several years, with the construction of HS2 being a catalyst for media and public attention.

However, more recently, the skills shortage the sector is facing has become a growing concern, with the sector becoming reliant on an aging workforce (28% of rail workers are aged 51 and over, with 15,000 potentially retiring by 2025) and struggling to recruit younger people into the industry.

When we created our Great Jobs report, we partnered with economic modellers EMSI Burning Glass to help map the future of essential sectors in the UK. In the case of rail, with 399,646 new vacancies expected to become available within the next 5 years, there is an urgent need for the sector to attract and retain talent to meet the demands of the future. According to our research, just 32% of people would consider a career in rail, and 47% said that they would never consider working in the sector, despite offering the potential for career development and high salaries.

The sector particularly struggles with a lack of diversity in terms of its appeal – only 27% of BAME respondents would consider a career in the sector, and only 2% of women. To meet the growing demand for rail workers, employers will need to consider how to improve the reputation of the industry among currently under-represented groups.

A broader lack of awareness is also a challenge for the rail industry, with 41% of people who said they wouldn’t consider a career in rail citing a lack of knowledge of the careers available in the sector, while 35% believe that they lack the necessary skills to enter the industry.

As part of our Great Jobs campaign we have been looking deeper into the rail sector, speaking to industry experts and members of the workforce to explore how to best address these challenges, attracting and retaining staff into a sustainable and rewarding career.

You can read our in-depth rail report, containing more detailed insights into the sector and you can listen below to our Great Jobs podcast rail episode, hosted by City & Guilds CEO Kirstie Donnelly.