‘State of the Nation’ report from People 1st, the sector skills council, finds that more than half of employers struggle to recruit people with core skills

Passenger transport businesses are facing “an impending crisis” when it comes to finding staff with skills to meet increasing customer expectations and technology changes that are taking place within the sector, People 1st has warned.

The sector skills council’s State of the Nation Passenger Transport 2012 research report, published this month, found that more than half (52%) of employers working across the passenger transport sector said that they had experienced difficulties finding staff with the right level of customer service skills. This is significantly higher than the 40% average across all sectors.

A further 57% of employers said that they had found it difficult to recruit people into positions with specific technical requirements as changes to the way people travel, new technologies around fuel or ticketing, and investment in new infrastructure means changes to the skills required.

Brian Wisdom, chief executive officer of People 1st, said that while there is a growing recognition that people skills are as important as technical capabilities, finding applicants with the right blend is proving difficult for many organisations.

“Employers tell us that while they are receiving a lot more applications for jobs, the quality is not necessarily rising because a lot of people just don’t have the skills they want or need.

“There is a often a poor perception of the sector, which means that people with the right skills just don’t consider entering into a career in passenger transport. Whether it’s the idea that the sector is not customer-focused, that there are few career opportunities or chances for progression, or the legal requirements around employment, some sectors are really struggling to find the right people.

“All of this needs to be addressed if we’re going to fill the skills gaps currently present.”

Wisdom said provision of more training would help to address these issues and the report highlights the significant opportunities within the sector. For example, he said that providing customer service training to existing staff members can be accomplished relatively quickly and can deliver tangible results, which creates ongoing momentum for change.

Per capita spending on training in the passenger transport sector is currently £675 each year, which is 60% less than the UK average of £1,725. And the money that is currently invested in training is primarily focussed on regulatory requirements as many of these industries are heavily regulated.

The State of the Nation report found that 44% of businesses in the passenger transport sector believe that at least some of their staff would benefit from additional training. Just over one in five reported that at least half of their staff could benefit (rising to 42% in the rail industry).

To address the lack of technical skills that many employers are facing, the report advocates the introduction of more on-the-job training such as apprenticeships.

It suggests that a greater focus on showcasing the excellent career opportunities, providing clear career pathways, and offering opportunities to gain qualifications while working would make the industry more attractive to skilled employees.

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