HS2 Plans ‘doomed’ without access to skills, warns APSCO

Following yesterday’s announcement that Boris Johnson’s cabinet has given approval for the whole of HS2 to go ahead, the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) has welcomed the boost to employment opportunities that its construction will bring – but warned that the success of the mammoth project pivots on the availability of skills.

Commenting on the announcement, Tania Bowers, Legal Counsel at APSCo, said:

“There is no doubt that a huge infrastructure project such as HS2 will have a positive impact on employment opportunities across the UK, both during construction and beyond. The resulting high-speed rail line has the potential to boost investment across the Midlands and the North of England so that all regions of the UK can contribute to the country’s future prosperity. However, the success of the project firmly pivots on the availability of specialist skills.

“A significant volume and calibre of professionals are required to deliver the vision we have been promised: it has previously been suggested that the first phase of the build alone is expected to support around 40,000 jobs – and many of these are in specialisms already experiencing acute skills shortages such as engineering and construction.  

“Yes, HS2’s commitment to growing its own talent will ultimately create the engineers of the future to the benefit of the wider infrastructure sector – but in the short-term, the project will require professionals from overseas.

“At a time when growing skills gaps across the UK economy risk being exacerbated by limitations on migration and incoming changes to off-payroll working legislation, it is vital that we retain access to valuable talent. In APSCo’s own manifesto we have called for a dedicated visa route as part of the future skills-based immigration system, through which highly skilled contractors from overseas can come to the UK and support British businesses – and this is yet another example of where this talent is needed.”  

“While the recently unveiled Global Talent visa – the successor of the old Tier 1 ‘Exceptional Talent’ visa route – is a step in the right direction, there needs to be wider application or another visa route for the technically highly-skilled working in shortage occupations.”