Future proofing the railway industry



HS2, the major high speed project which aims to link London, Birmingham, the East Midlands, Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester, needs thousands of workers and says it wants to ensure it gets the best.

Women are high on the list of potential employees it is reaching out to.  As part of that initiative to boost diversity in a sector not renowned for it, it is organising a series of recruitment events, beginning on National Women in Engineering Day, 23rd June.

“The railway industry is traditionally seen as not being associated with women,” says Helen Bass, Package Procurement Manager at HS2. “HS2 is about innovation for the future. That  is why we are working towards being best in class. The events aim to educate and inform people about the range of different roles we have on offer, from engineering to HR to designers, and how we are looking for innovators to future proof the railway system.”

HS2 and its supply chain need a large number of skilled workers. They include an additional 1,000 people in business support services; 7,200 engineers; and 16,000 skilled labourers.

Bass, who works in procurement but whose background is in sport, says for many roles what is important is having key transferable skills, such as team and leadership skills. She states: “We want to open up the recruitment process to people who might not have thought about the industry before or who might have caring responsibilities or have taken time out of the industry.”


So far HS2 is doing well on diversity compared to the rest of the industry and has a good record on maternity returners.  Some 41% of staff are women, compared to 16.4 per cent in the rail industry as a whole, according to the latest Women in Rail survey. Some 21% of people working in construction in HS2 are women; 31% of those in Programme and Strategy Directorate are women; 37% of those in technical positions are women; 28% of those in IT are female; and 36% of the executive committee are women.

HS2’s CEO Simon Kirby has recently won a diversity award and actively takes part in diversity events, for instance, he was at a recent event for WISE, the campaign for women in science, technology, engineering and maths.

At the first event on 23rd June, senior managers will talk about what HS2 offers,  managers will speak about their own career trajectories and there will be an opportunity for attendees to present their cvs, talk to HR staff and get advice on the jobs HS2 is recruiting for. Managers will mention the support HS2 offers for families, including flexible working. “We know that we will not necessarily get the best people by recruiting for roles that can only be worked following the traditional 9 to 5 in the office pattern,” says Bass.

The event runs from 9.30-11.30am and will be held at HS2’s main office in Birmingham. The organisation also has people in Euston and Canary Wharf and HS2 staff work across the country. Future events will be held in London.

Bass is encouraging those interested to register. Their details will be kept on file for future events if they are unable to attend the first one. She adds that the event’s aims are wider than just HS2. “We want to encourage people into the industry as a whole. It’s an opportunity to give back to the industry,” she says.

She adds that there is a big business imperative to widen recruitment: “If, as a business, we carry on recruiting the way we are we will not be able to deliver the number of additional  people we need. Research shows that more diverse companies perform better. We want to be the best and to be world leading.  We need diverse skillsets to do that.”

*For more information and to register, click here.

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