Q&A with Rebecca Young of HS2: Apprenticeships in rail

Posted: 8 February 2023 | | No comments yet

To commemorate National Apprenticeship Week, Global Railway Review spoke to Rebecca Young, Senior Skills and Employment Strategy Manager for HS2, about the importance of apprenticeships and the benefits that they bring to the workforce.

HS2 worker back

Credit: HS2

How are apprenticeships helping HS2 to build a skilled workforce?

HS2’s construction is forecast to support 34,000 jobs at its peak, and our workforce currently sits at just under 30,000. We have a huge geographical footprint, with 350 construction sites between London, the Midlands and Crewe, as well as offices in London, Birmingham, Milton Keynes, and Manchester.

Our Skills, Employment and Education Strategy (SEE), which we launched in September 2018, set the foundations for how we would work with our local partners and business and industry groups to help plug the skills gap. Apprenticeships have a huge role to play in ensuring that we have the skilled workforce we need, at the right time and in the right place, and we are delighted with what we have achieved so far.

A huge focus for us at HS2 is our commitment to creating meaningful careers, and we achieve this by investing in the long-term development of our workforce. Both harnessing future talent and investing in upskilling are vital if we are to attract and retain the highly skilled people we need.

We have been creating apprenticeship opportunities for over five years now, and the vast majority of those who start their career as an apprentice with us chose to progress into permanent roles, where they continue to learn as they climb the career ladder.

Can you tell us about the apprenticeship scheme that HS2 offers?

There are literally hundreds of opportunities for people looking to pursue a career in all kinds of different subject areas – that is the great thing about HS2. It’s one of those rare projects where we need all types of expertise, everything from environmental sciences and ecology to civil engineering, cyber security, land referencing and procurement. There is something out there for everyone, from Level 2 (GCSE level) up to Level 6 (degree level).

A huge focus for us at HS2 is our commitment to creating meaningful careers, and we achieve this by investing in the long-term development of our workforce.

Every year, HS2 Ltd welcomes more apprentices into the business, and our construction partners and companies within our supply chain are always searching for new talent to join them too.

The really great thing about apprenticeships is that they are open to all ages – and it’s never too late to start learning. Since the pandemic, we have seen a big increase in the number of people in their 30s and 40s stepping forward, as they want a complete career change.

We partner with fantastic colleges and Universities across the country, so our apprentices also benefit from a really high-quality learning experience. Day to day, they’ll be hands on in their specialist area, supporting the construction of Britain’s new railway.

A civil engineer apprentice

Credit: HS2

What are the recent apprenticeship milestones that HS2 have reached?

We have committed to creating 2,000 apprenticeships throughout the duration of the project, and last month, we hit the 1,000 milestone. It’s a fantastic achievement so early into our construction programme, and it’s one we’re all really proud of.

To date, we have achieved 1,126 new apprenticeship starts and we are about to launch our biggest apprentice recruitment campaign yet. During National Apprenticeship Week, we’ll begin the search for 300 more apprentices, with roles at both HS2 Ltd and within our supply chain.

What are some of the benefits that come from getting into the industry through an apprenticeship?

We offer a lot of degree-level apprenticeships, and as employers invest in funding the learning element, that is a huge draw for lots of people.

When I talk to our apprentices, one of the things they value most is how an apprenticeship allows them to combine earning and learning. We offer a lot of degree-level apprenticeships, and as employers invest in funding the learning element, that is a huge draw for lots of people, who might not otherwise have been able to afford to secure a degree-level education.

The progression opportunities at HS2 are fantastic too. This is a long-term project, and we want to retain the skilled workforce we’re investing in. We have apprentices who have completed one apprenticeship, and then progress onto doing a degree level apprenticeship. The industry experience they’re amassing while studying is unrivalled, and as so much of what we do is an industry first, there really isn’t a better place to be starting out.

Can you explain the ‘Skills for Life’ theme for this year’s national apprenticeship week and what this means for HS2?

Skills for Life is very much part of our mantra, and it really captures the essence of what apprenticeships are all about.

I’d urge anyone, whether starting out in their career or looking for a complete change of direction, to take a look at the opportunities we are offering. We’ll be launching the first 80 apprenticeship jobs during National Apprenticeship Week, with more to follow in the weeks and months ahead.

HS2’s talent pool really is incredible. Every day you get to work alongside and learn from some of the very best in the industry, as we come together to build the best railway in the best way.

Rebecca Young

Rebecca Young joined HS2 six years ago and is their Senior Skills and Employment Strategy Manager. Rebecca’s role is to realise the skills and employment benefits from the HS2 programme. She is responsible for ensuring the supply chain deliver on the skills, employment and education requirements set out in over 35 contracts. Prior to joining HS2, she held senior leadership roles in Local Government and has over 25 years’ experience of working in the field of economic development and regeneration.


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