The ITS industry is unique and faces a shortage of recruits embarking on technical careers, armed with the precise skills required. This needs to be addressed by public bodies and ITS companies for the good of the sector as a whole.
While many firms within ITS can undoubtedly “do their bit” to promote the supply of appropriately trained individuals across the industry, Highways England has considerable power to help the sector achieve its goals. For example, it would be great to see an increase in the number of ITS-specific higher education courses available.
Cool enough for school: Pupils at Highfield School
In the private sector, at the same time as corporate social responsibility becomes increasingly important throughout the industry, the provision of student work experience programmes is proving an effective means both of preparing young people for entry to the sector and of supporting local communities.
MVIS and Bartco UK have established a long-standing relationship with our local comprehensive school, Highfields School in Matlock. We’ve run several work experience programmes for Year 10 students, during which they’ve worked with our technical team in the construction of Bartco UK variable message signs (VMS).
This year we extended this educational initiative, launching a project for Year 8 pupils to encourage them to think about the role ITS equipment could perform outside the transport sector. The project will also include a more technical aspect, when the students learn how to programme Bartco UK VMS.
We hope that educational projects like these will give young people an idea of the kind of roles that this industry has to offer and the kind of skills required, and encourage them to consider it as a potential career route. They are simultaneously an effective means of investing in the future of the industry and also of supporting young people in our local area.
Gratifyingly, one of last year’s Highfields work experience students is about to embark on a four year apprenticeship with us. He will join four other apprentices working across our various departments, from administration to technical.
Our apprenticeship scheme has proved particularly fruitful for our companies, with both our operations and service coordinator and administration assistant having begun their careers as apprentices here, bringing with them the bespoke skills they developed during their schemes.
One of the reasons our initiative has worked so well is that we’ve always ensured that, however busy we are, our apprentices have been given adequate time to undertake all of their apprenticeship work within office hours. Not every organisation does this, and our training provider advises that this can compromise the output, from the perspective both of the individuals concerned and of their employers.
In-work training should not be the sole preserve of apprentices, however. We all need it. Not only to enable us to meet corporate regulations such as those relating to health and safety. Nor simply to maintain registration against ISO provisions such as the BS EN ISO 14001:2015 in environmental management and BS EN ISO 9001:2015 in quality management that we have just secured. Training is a long-term investment in a company’s workforce, at every level.
At MVIS and Bartco, our training programmes range from NVQs to the Open University degree that I’m doing, and I can honestly say that, in addition to enhancing our ability to perform our jobs and build our businesses, they are hugely worthwhile investments in staff, increasing the fulfillment we get from our work and further strengthening our loyalty to the firms.