Transport for London: securing apprenticeships for local people | Best practice exchange |

Skills brokers are matching unemployed Londoners with jobs and training in transport and engineering, using contracts to make sure local people are first in the queue.

Skills shortages in transport are forecast to rise to 35% by 2013/14, while in some areas of the capital 30% of residents are out of work.

Transport for London is tackling both problems with its initiative, Strategic Labour Needs and Training (SLNT), using corporate social responsibility and business strategies.

The initiative puts suppliers under contract to offer jobs and training opportunities to local communities, the long-term unemployed and under-represented groups. For its part SLNT helps suppliers find skills and training programmes.

It is driven by the mayor of London’s Economic Development Strategy which pledges a responsible procurement policy and "to give all Londoners the opportunity to take part in London’s economic success, access sustainable employment and progress in their careers".

The SLNT approach has been applied to 30 high-profile projects and contracts, most notably the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme, and is endorsed by commissioner of transport, Peter Hendy. As a result, TfL has created 2,200 apprenticeships and is on track to exceed a target of 2,550.

A Supplier Skills Team works with the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) and the Department for Work and Pensions Work Programme to help suppliers develop specific programmes.

Prime contractors funded a position within the team to enable long-term unemployed Londoners to access vacancies. The Civil Engineering Apprenticeship Consortium was set up as a direct result of the initiative.

Threatened by skills shortages and an aging workforce, the sector was keen to develop new routes in for young people. The team, in partnership with six suppliers, NAS and the Institute of Civil Engineers developed an award winning new Civil Engineering apprenticeship.

The model has been adopted by other large organisations delivering major projects, including Crossrail. As well as working with traditional construction trades, there are apprenticeships in facilities management and with three key bus operators. Nearly 900 bus drivers have completed the apprentice programme.

As consequence of the scheme, transport operators have reported reduced staff turnover, better customer service, lower collision rates and improved fuel efficiency.

SLNT’s Routes into Work project, developed by TfL and the London Transport Museum, supports people not in employment, education or training to boost their employability. Young people are offered interactive learning to improve employment skills before meeting TfL suppliers. Vital Rail recruited 33 apprentices through the project.

Jackie Wills is part of the wordworks network

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Paul Champion

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