Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Investing, in People


In recent weeks, it has been announced that the government will invest over £9bn in the rail network over the period of 2014 – 2019. While around £5.2bn worth of projects have already been committed to during this period, a further £4.2 billion will be allocated to new schemes, including station and track upgrades, high capacity lines and electrification upgrades. For the UK rail industry, this is clearly positive news, and a necessary step for continued development of the UK network into a European, and World-class passenger and freight transport network.


The UK is renowned around the world for its great engineering history – the rail industry being a major contributing factor of this fame. Today, engineering and technical expertise is in high demand across a variety of industries, from Oil and Gas, Nuclear and Renewable Energy through to key civil projects, both within the UK and overseas. As well as the benefits to the network itself, this investment could be a much needed boost to an industry which has struggled on occasion to retain and attract expertise into the industry, while developing new talent from within. 

For the recruitment companies supplying the rail industry, government investment such as this is likely to be calculated in terms of the manpower and workforce requirements and other elements of the ‘softer’ side of investment which naturally filters through to the most valuable asset of any industry; its people. In effect, manpower suppliers will ask the questions; “how many new people will we need to recruit to meet the project requirements? How can we support the development of our existing people to meet the requirements? How can we ensure our people remain healthy and safe in new and/or changing working environments?” Looking past the ‘bricks-and-mortar’ investment in the UK network, ultimately it is the level of investment in people which could provide the most value from this investment. 

The rail industry has been on a journey itself during the past 30 years and investment in people has moved to the forefront. This has been seen particularly in the development of health, safety and environmental practice and procedure. HSE has been dramatically improved, as operators, engineering and supply companies adopt a ‘safety first’ mentality in a potentially hazardous working environment. 

In support of this; recently, Gareth Llewellyn, Network Rail Director of Safety and Sustainable Development, said “no one should lose their life as a result of coming to work”. Mr. Llewellyn then proceeded to launch Network Rail’s eleven ‘Lifesaving Rules’. These rules are comprehensive, covering safely on the line, through to driving vehicles and the requirement for individuals to take responsibility. 

Primat itself, as a recruitment supplier to the industry, is committed to delivering a sustainable world class performance through the prevention of injury, ill health and harm to the environment. Primarily, this means identifying and controlling all HSE risks arising from our work activities in so far as is reasonably practicable. This means not only educating candidates, but also working with clients to ensure the conditions of work on site are at the best possible level. Before a candidate is cleared for work on a client project, they must undergo compliance checks to ensure they are fully qualified and skilled to complete the scope of work. Upon commencing assignment, candidates are given a site induction and advised on HSE policy and procedure, to ensure that they understand the protocol they should follow. Additionally, dedicated safety officers conduct site visits on a regular basis to ensure the work site itself is well maintained and safe for work. These processes aren’t carried out just to tick boxes; they are key standards which contribute to the shape and form of the overall industry HSE culture; a culture of fundamentally looking after people. 

Gareth Llewellyn suggests “everyone has an obligation to look out for themselves and their colleagues at work”. This is a sentiment we believe in. Hopefully, working at an operational level directly with a section of the rail industry’s workforce, recruitment companies like Primat can continue to drive these sentiments to make a positive cultural difference in the industry. 

Ultimately, for an industry supplier like Primat, seeing government investment of this magnitude means three key things: 

  1. Firstly, financial investment in development projects means that, naturally, opportunities will be created on new, innovative and exciting projects. Good news, and for those already in the industry, this is an opportunity for career advancement as experience and skills will be sought to deliver these projects to high quality, on time and on budget. 
  2. Secondly, this means that during a tough employment market around much of the UK, there will be greater need for industry companies to invest in ‘tomorrow’s talent’ to meet personnel requirements, thereby training and develop new experts for the industry. 
  3. Finally, and most importantly, is the implicit investment in people safety. The rail industry is in competition to attract tomorrow’s talent, competing with a number of other dynamic industries. In this competition, providing safe and risk free environments for the industry’s workforce is paramount. 

So, next time you read about financial investment in station and track upgrades, high capacity lines and electrification upgrades, think of the investment in people; we do!

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