Bringing talent in to the UK rail industry

success stories filters rail-14

Robin Kenyon, Senior Project Manager, Carillion

“During buoyant periods demand is strong, but at other times it retracts and suppliers have to react accordingly. This makes it a real challenge to ensure the cycle of recruitment meets the needs of our business. We often have to recruit very quickly, which is where ARM comes in.”

“ARM is helping us to find the talent that we and the rail industry needs,” explains Robin Kenyon, Senior Project Manager at integrated support services provider Carillion. “At the moment we are specifically looking for Project Engineers, but our needs mirror the fast moving demands of our clients.” Robin was introduced to ARM shortly after his appointment in late 2014 – Carillion had already been using the recruitment specialist for a number of years as part of its staff procurement framework.

Bridging the skills gap with ARM:

The success of the rail industry is highly dependent upon people with the relevant experience and training, as Robin elaborates, “The recession made this issue even more difficult as some trained professionals left the sector to find alternative employment and haven’t come back. Like many other engineering and infrastructure sectors, the rail industry can be ‘feast or famine’, with big increases and decreases in the people and resources needed at different times. This makes it a real challenge to find the right people, which is why we rely upon the assistance of ARM in finding these skilled professionals.”

There are other factors which makes recruitment a challenge too, as Robin explains, “As well as qualifications and experience there are also more general factors such as location and family commitments. The railways sector can involve working long hours and in remote locations, so finding candidates that can accommodate these requirements can be difficult. ARM works tirelessly to help us find candidates that are a good match from a broader perspective, not just the details on their CV.”

Rising to the challenge of rail recruitment:

The UK railway sector has a need for skilled, trained and experienced signalling professionals. The problem was highlighted by a survey conducted at the start of 2015 which suggested that the industry needs around 500 qualified professional signalling testers, but that currently the UK only has around 340 such qualified people. “It takes 10 years to train somebody to the full standard for this role, so there is clearly a concerningly large shortfall in the numbers, which means these professionals are in high demand,” explains Robin.

The UK rail industry is dominated by two big customers – Network Rail and London Underground. “The result is that work is very much dependant on the activities of these two key customers,” states Robin. “During buoyant periods demand is strong, but at other times it retracts and suppliers have to react accordingly. This makes it a real challenge to ensure the cycle of recruitment meets the needs of our business. We often have to recruit very quickly, which is where ARM comes in.”

Recruiting for the future:

As well as working with ARM to source the current professionals needed, Robin believes that graduate schemes and apprenticeships are vital for the future. Carillion has started an apprenticeships scheme, in conjunction with Derby College, specifically for its signalling division. This is to ensure it has a pipeline of fresh talent developing. Robin adds: “With a current team of 200, we need to ensure these numbers can grow and flourish to meet demand.”

He continues, “These are long-term recruitment investments which will benefit the rail industry as a whole. But in the short term, we are still looking to find skilled people within our sector as well as attracting those who have chosen to leave. The recruitment specialists at ARM understand this and are adept at finding suitably skilled candidates for interview.”

The benefits of working with ARM:

“ARM has always been very good at assisting us with our recruitment needs,” comments Robin. “We work closely with the team and this is helped enormously by the fact they understand our business drivers and needs. We do have a vacancies board, but ARM proactively take these opportunities and roles out to potential candidates in the employment market.”

“ARM is able to search full-time for candidates and makes impressive use of social media, which would be impossible for us to do in-house. We know ARM have databases of relevant candidates and knowledge of the market to find the talent we need, acting as an extended part of our team.”

There are other benefits to working with ARM too, as Robin concludes, “We also get lots of feedback on market conditions and what candidates will expect in terms of salary and benefits. This would be tough to find out on our own, we can hardly ask our competitors! I would definitely recommend ARM as an excellent recruiter which adds real value to the relationship as well.”