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HS2 - the opportunity to herald a skills revolution

I have to congratulate Lord Deighton and the growth taskforce on this report as it shows how infrastructure can really drive the skills agenda and leave a legacy of sustainable employment for people in our cities and their surrounding areas.

People said that London 2012 couldn’t be done but the industry proved them wrong.

HS2 is another chance for us to build on this, by demonstrating to the world that UK business can deliver projects on a much larger scale. It will be another step change for the construction industry and UK Plc.

The procurement required to deliver HS2 will be on an unprecedented scale. We need to look at the procurement models so that there is a balance of main contractors and also for SMEs throughout the supply chain. 

“We will need to continue to focus to ensure we’re bringing the right skills into the industry across all disciplines”

Innovation is a key driver for HS2 so fostering collaboration throughout the supply chain and getting our businesses ready to compete will undoubtedly lead to new ideas for products and services that we can take out to market.

As London 2012 clearly demonstrated, sustainable procurement works and can really transform lives in the local areas to major infrastructure developments. There is no need to reinvent the wheel in terms of procurement – we know what works, so I see HS2 as being a way to improve on the great work that has already been done.

Broadening skills

However, although the recommendation in the report focuses on increasing rail skills capabilities, which is one element, it needs to go further.

To realise the full economic growth potential of HS2, we will need to have more planners, programme managers, more tradesmen and more technicians – the list goes on – who not only understand rail but the associated infrastructure that is needed to deliver successful cities.

And that’s before we get started on how we’re going to deliver the anticipated regeneration benefits the new line will bring.

We’re already moving in the right direction on this; the recent parliamentary report on construction skills No More Lost Generations highlighted the need to create stronger links between employers and skills training providers.

Initiatives such as the HS2 Skills College and UTCs should be employer-led, in order to ensure that the young people are equipped with the right skills and are fit for work. But we will need to continue to focus on this to ensure that we’re bringing the right skills into the industry across all disciplines.

We need to inspire young people to join our industry – not just for the sake of HS2, but in order to deliver the great pipeline of infrastructure projects that this country needs in order to truly compete on the world stage in the 21st century.

Jason Millett is Mace chief operating officer for major projects and infrastructure

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