Circle Insights

How learning and development can improve recruitment in transport and construction

Ollie Watson

Learning from previous projects, mapping skills to future tasks and identifying gaps in the workforce – learning and development can inform your recruitment needs

Recruitment is a vital component of the transport and construction industries. Being able to deploy the right number of appropriately skilled personnel to any given task is essential in delivering services and projects efficiently and on time. A robust learning and development programme can help large organisations in maintaining this balance. From upskilling existing employees to demand forecasting mapped against current and future work, having oversight of core skills and competencies across your workforce is fundamental to your ability to deliver work and services. With a holistic view of your workforce you can understand where any gaps may be emerging or may exist against future work, then remedy them with accurate recruitment.

Knowing when to recruit

Mapping the existing skills and competencies of your workforce against the demand for their skills and competencies against current and future work offers insights as to what you need. If your existing workforce doesn’t cover this, then recruitment is inevitable. If there are only a few gaps, training existing employees so that they are competent for the tasks required can help to plug gaps, but where a simple case of lack of numbers is identified, bringing people in is the only solution.

So how does learning and development help? As part of your wider competency management and training efforts, the overarching learning and development umbrella is essential in gaining a complete picture of your workforce, its competencies, skills and experiences. Maintaining this central database provides insight as to the profile of employee you need to add in order to fulfil projects and tasks.

This covers every aspect of your learning and development programme. From people on the ground to fulfil the tasks required of your services, to the people who conduct assessments of your workforce and run your training programmes. During periods of growth, it will be necessary to conduct more training and more assessments in order to keep your learning and development programme on track.

Ongoing assessment work is crucial to ensure work is being conducted properly. This covers safety and the appropriate fulfilment of tasks. Having the necessary number of assessors is important to achieving this. For more information on how Transport for London (TfL) assesses its London Underground drivers, please click here.

Similarly, getting new recruits up and running is a staple of any learning and development programme. Proper inductions and any training and briefings must be conducted before they start. You can read more about how Network Rail trains its 43,000 employees here.

Maintaining a future workforce pipeline

As projects start and finish, maintaining a core workforce is essential for ongoing work. One way in which transport and construction operators can maintain a healthy pipeline of future recruits is via apprenticeships.

According to the Constructions Skills Network, an extra 225,000 construction workers will be required in the UK by 2027. Filling these roles – and in a relatively short space of time – will be essential to the efficient and timely running of construction projects, many of which will cover the UK’s transport infrastructure, too.

Working with schools and colleges is a useful way of interacting with young people who might be interested in a career in construction. Offering them hands on experience alongside their studies provides practical experience which strengthens their skills and experience in the industry.

What happens once they start their career? Career development, once people have been recruited, helps to broaden the pool of skills and competencies available to you. Offering ongoing training courses and opportunities helps your existing workforce to be upwardly mobile, helping to address skills gaps internally without the need to recruit.


Joined up thinking is paramount in implementing a successful recruitment policy, feeding off the competency management and training aspects of your learning and development programme. Understanding your workforce is central to this. Where are there gaps? Who can be upskilled? This feeds into your wider project management; what current and upcoming work will require what skills and competencies?

A scattergun approach to recruitment is inefficient and expensive. Utilising the knowledge that you can create about your workforce helps you to pinpoint the skills and experience you need for current and future work, whilst creating efficiencies in your processes and accurate responses to your roadmap of work.

We have recently explored the topic of learning and development, including recruitment, in our white paper Learning and development in construction and transport: how can organisations enhance their workforce efficiently, in a data led way? You can download your free copy here.

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Ollie Watson