Column by Dan Fell, chief executive officer of Doncaster Chamber
On 29 June our colleagues in the council’s Business Doncaster team are running their second annual Rail Conference.
There are some great speakers on the bill and I would recommend the event to anyone working in the rail sector as well as other SMEs in Doncaster trying to find their way into the supply chain of rail firms.
Inevitably skills will feature highly on the agenda as it did at the Doncaster Business Conference organised by the chamber a month ago; as it typically does at events like these. There is good reason for that, as many firms in the manufacturing, engineering, construction and rail sectors report challenges relating to an ageing workforce and difficulty in attracting young talent to their sector. Indeed, the results of our last Quarterly Economic Survey showed that the war for talent seems to be returning to pre-recession level of acuteness. We therefore need to think smartly and differently about how we address these systemic issues.
With that in mind, I am delighted to see that our Business Doncaster team are taking the progressive step at their event of explicitly linking the skills conversation to a debate about diversity in the rail sector. I think this is a great move and reflects the truism that, to be as competitive as possible in a global economy, the private sector must access and nurture as wide a talent pool as possible. This includes working with people from different demographic groups and backgrounds, but also harnessing alternative and unconventional skills sets too.
In order to reach a broad talent pool it is important to debunk myths, be open-minded, and show off as many different careers, industries and pathways as possible to our town’s young people. That’s why it matters to me that our Doncaster Skills Academy – the vehicle we use for bridging the gap between business and education – places such a big emphasis on showcasing sectors to kids that might not be inclined to go into those industries. One of the most obvious examples of this is encouraging young females to look closely at careers in exciting industries like rail engineering, as opposed to simply presenting only pathways that might align more closely with stereotypes. The need to harness diversity and talent is also at the heart of Doncaster’s current University Technical College bid. We hope to be presenting the case for a UTC to the Department for Education this June. Express your support by visiting www.doncasterutc.co.uk