High Speed 2 will need an average of nearly 5,000 construction workers per month during phase one and two of construction, according to data shared with Construction News.
The data, gathered in conjunction with the University of Dundee and with input from the CITB and Experian, shows the project will need a monthly average total workforce of 11,580 workers across six categories of worker during the construction of phase one and two.
An average of 4,980 construction operatives, 1,015 construction designers and 735 construction managers will be required each month, as well as non-construction, rolling stock and railway systems professionals.
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The category of labour with the highest workforce on HS2 will be non-construction professional, technical, IT and other office-based staff, of which 1,055 workers will be required on average each month during the first and second phases.
During this time, the peak construction operative workforce will be 22,672.
Crossrail, Europe’s largest infrastructure project, had 14,000 workers at its peak.
Speaking to Construction News, HS2 skills and employment strategy manager Scott-James Eley said this demand reflected the project’s need for “high-level technical skills”.
“In terms of forecasting, we’ve not identified a major shortage in mainstream construction trades – we’re not stressing the lack of availabilty of traditional skills,” he said.
“What HS2 will be focusing on is the gaps in skills like modern construction methodologies, BIM, different approaches to earthworks and so on. There isn’t existing provision to meet our needs.”
According to the data shared with Construction News, HS2 phases one and two will need a monthly average of 781 electricians, 327 plant operatives, 261 bricklayers and 110 scaffolders.
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To help meet these employment demands, HS2 announced the opening of a college in Birmingham, with a separate campus in Doncaster, to train staff to fill these skills gaps.
The college, which will be the first new incorporated further education college in more than 20 years, will open in 2017.
Mr Eley was keen to emphasise that it would not just be used for new entrants to the industry.
“Fifty per cent of HS2’s workforce will need skills at NVQ level 3 or above; at the moment, 80 per cent only have NVQ level 2,” he said.
“We will bring in people already in the industry for upskilling – we anticipate this to be a vital area of growth.
“There will be a wide variety of different people studying at the college, both new learners and upskilling, and we will develop relationships with existing facilities to maximise efficiency – we don’t want to duplicate work.”
Mr Eley said the college wanted to develop the curriculum and training based on “collective effort and input from contractors”.
“The challenge is how to incentivise the supply chain to come and teach at the college, but it’s not down to HS2 alone,” he said.
“We need a close partnership with the supply chains and other industry bodies so we can all understand where the gaps are and collectively address skills shortages.”
The college will focus on skills that will be beneficial to the whole industry and not just contractors, according to Mr Eley.
The student intake will comprise UK and foreign nationals and Mr Eley said it would be “a measure of the college’s success whether foreign students want to come and study there”, describing HS2 as a “global business”.
When asked whether the skills taught at the college and the job opportunities created by HS2 will only be limited to the Birmingham, London and Manchester – HS2’s three key hubs – Mr Eley said the demand from the project will create jobs “across the country”.
“Work will flow through tier one and tier two contractors down to smaller businesses,” he said. “We’ve seen with Crossrail how the work can help SMEs – HS2 will do that and then some.
“Offsite manufacturing will be key – we will need hundreds of bridges and viaducts, and we want to do as much of that offsite as possible, so we’ll be buying goods and services from all across the UK, not just where HS2 is based.”
A peak total workforce of 34,172 will be needed each month during the construction of phases one and two of HS2.
Mr Eley said that, rather than consider this daunting, the industry should “embrace the skills opportunities that HS2 will offer”.
“There are so many reasons to be optimistic: HS2 offers that line of sight for young people getting into the industry and for contractors there’s a 15 to 20-year pipeline that gives people the opportunity to build a career,” he said.
But he stressed that HS2 cannot do everything on its own. “Contractors will be vital for the college to help shape the curriculum, and where appropriate there will be challenging but proportionate training, employment and skills deliverables as part of contractors’ deals for HS2.”