Building a National Rail Skills Hub

The NTC has launched the National Rail Skills Hub with its partners. The virtual hub addresses the challenge of a looming skills and labour shortage, identified in the National Rail Action Plan.

The hub is coordinating current industry and government training initiatives and activities. It is helping to improve career pathways and portability of rail skill sets, so we can help grow the rail workforce of the future.

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The NTC launched the National Rail Skills Hub in December 2022. As part of the launch, we interviewed people working in Australia's rail industry and asked them why they think it’s a great career choice. Take a look at their responses in the video below.

The hub is supporting the development of 30 simplified career pathways and entry points for the sector’s most in-demand roles while also supporting the development of a national skills forecasting system to better target education and training investments

The NTC is also facilitating a rail skills forum to connect industry, government and educators and foster an exchange of knowledge. Expected outcomes include tangible steps for building the critical rail skills needed in the short to medium term. More information to come.

Skills and labour availability

Over $155 billion in freight and passenger rail projects will be delivered in Australia over the next 15 years. Projects include construction of rail infrastructure and rolling stock, as well as the digitisation of key rail systems, such as signalling. But without intervention, the rail sector is facing a skills and labour shortage within the next five years.

The National Rail Action Plan identified several critical challenges:

More people needed. Across Australia the sector is struggling to meet the demand for train drivers, controllers, track workers, signalling engineers and technicians, maintenance workers, electrical technicians and tunnellers. In construction alone, modelling shows 95,000 people are needed to deliver funded projects over the next three years.

New skills needed. As key rail infrastructure is digitised and new technologies are introduced, new types of jobs and higher-level skills are needed. The rail industry needs to attract people with digital and cyber-security skills but is currently struggling to compete in a competitive jobs market.

Skill development needs to be portable. States and territories have developed bespoke training in rail that has met the needs of their specific networks. Training in rail can often take a long time to complete – but without the gains or flexibility this comes with in other professions. As a result, many rail workers can't use their qualifications outside the state or territory they trained in.

Clear career pathways and entry points needed. The localised and uncoordinated nature of training in rail has resulted in a lack of visibility into the industry from the outside. New workers don’t have a clear picture of what they need to enter the industry at different levels and how careers in rail can develop.

Need to attract a diverse workforce. The lack of visibility into the rail industry has hidden the diversity of roles in the sector. Added to that, the current rail workforce is male-dominated, and aging at 2.6 times faster than the rate of other industries. Rail needs to attract a new generation of workers, without losing the skills of the current workforce.

Creating a National Rail Skills Hub

The National Rail Action Plan identified the need for a national hub that will fill the gap in coordination and help grow a workforce to meet current and future demand.

In May 2021, transport ministers agreed to fund a National Rail Skills Hub to coordinate industry and government initiatives and activities. The hub is bringing industry, government, transport and education sectors together to try and double the number of people working in rail.

The new virtual skills hub will:

  • Improve training portability by connecting rail training academies and industry initiatives.
  • Lift training quality by supporting knowledge exchange where skills and training impact at a national level.
  • Improve access to rail skills by defining clear career and training pathways and entry points and linking them to where there are jobs.
  • Attract a diverse workforce by raising the profile of the rail sector and the diversity of jobs available and promoting rail as an industry of choice.
  • Inform and support national training reform from a rail perspective by collaborating with industry and skills departments.

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