5 October 2023 | Skills

Strictly Highways 2023: Retaining younger talent is key

The industry must do more to attract and retain younger professionals, according to a group of apprentices who spoke about careers in highways at this year’s Strictly Highways event.

Day two of the event kicked off with a session entitled ‘Careers in highways: The next generation’. LCRIG’s Finance and Operations Director Kerry Winstanley chaired the session and was joined by Charlie Dunkerley, East Riding of Yorkshire Council; Stephanie Fox, Cheshire East Highways; and Joseph Aindow, Wigan Council.

During the debate the panellists talked about a range of topics, highlighting what attracted them to come into the highways sector and what more needs to be done to attract a younger and more diverse workforce into the industry.

Charlie Dunkerley said: ‘’We need to show youngsters the career path that’s available to them. There are lots of opportunities to progress.’’

Stephanie Fox added: ‘’It’s about inspiring people into the industry and keeping them. I would encourage people here to bring younger people with them to events like this so they can gain an understanding of the opportunities available to them.’’

The panel talked about how to attract people into the sector, with Stephanie adding: ‘’The main perception is you will put high vis on and repair a pothole. We need to give lectures at the right ages and make people aware of the wide range of opportunities available.’’

Joseph Aindow said: ‘’When I left college the consensus was that you should go to university and there wasn’t much focus on apprenticeships.’’

Stephanie remarked: ‘’At the time when I was at school the focus was going on to university. I was the only person who did an apprenticeship. Parents need to let their children take their own paths. It isn’t all about having a degree.’’

The importance of mentors was also highlighted during the discussion.

Stephanie said: ‘’Mentors are vital. Every day is a learning day. If you have someone who will stick by you and support you then this can really help. You don’t learn things without trying them. Applying the right leadership styles instead of management styles is really important.’’

The panellists agreed that promoting the sector’s role in achieving net zero is a good way of attracting people into the industry.

Charlie said: ‘’We’re the future so it is important that we engage with hitting net zero. We have to do everything we can to help achieve that. ‘’

When asked what they would say to someone who is considering a career in highways, the panellists responded as follows:

Charlie: ‘’Do your research and speak to people in the sector. Be open minded. I’d recommend the industry to anyone. Hopefully my career will go on and on.’’

Stephanie: ‘’Just do it. The opportunities are endless. I do not regret the journey I’ve been on so far.’’

Joseph: “It’s very rewarding, we’re making a difference to thousands of people every day.’’