08 November 2022
Helping highway authorities address the skills gap with collaborative technology
Being able to collaborate digitally is now more important than ever.
At last month’s (October 2022) ADEPT National Traffic Managers’ Conference, recent graduates, now working at local authorities, were asked about their experience working at authorities in the digital age. The unanimous response: there is work to be done to make digital collaboration at work more effective and efficient – particularly given the post-pandemic rise of virtual and hybrid working. The way systems are set up and traditional methods of working feel outdated, and technology needs embracing.
But why is this so important?
The UK has set an ambitious £650 million investment in infrastructure over the next ten years, with £70 billion dedicated for transport through 2025.
Meanwhile, research by the Future Highways Research Group, which surveyed 31 local authorities, highlighted that only 11% of employees in authorities are aged 30 or under, while contrastingly, 33% are aged 56 or over. Fewer and fewer young people (85%) are choosing a career in the public and highways sector – and, additionally, 60% of the existing specialist concrete workforce is set to retire within 10 years.
These stats are undeniable evidence that young people are no longer attracted to careers within the public sector and proof that the current skills shortage facing highway authorities is only going to widen. And yet, the earlier responses from graduates suggest we can change this.
In a study by the Office for National Statistics, 71% of 16- to 21-year-olds confirmed that an “interesting job” is the most important factor for them when job-hunting.
It follows that, employers - especially local authorities – need to offer more interesting and varied job opportunities, in order to attract young candidates.
The impact of Covid-19 and Brexit have brought about a more empowered labour force, allowing employees, (the younger generation included), greater job choice from a larger pool of vacancies.
So, the question at hand is, how can local authorities create more engaging jobs to attract the younger workforce?
The answer lies in innovation and digitalisation.
With 70% of drivers connected in some way today, via navigation apps or in-car solutions, the rules of the road are becoming digital and dynamic and so too must the roles within this industry.
Key to making jobs more interesting and engaging is automation. There’s no excuse, with technology at our fingertips, for mundane tasks, such as creating temporary regulation orders, to still be manual processes.
Investing in solutions like those offered by one.network, allows traffic management plans and critical road event data to be created and submitted with just a couple of clicks. The hours spent investigating fines or trying to source historical road works information can be significantly reduced, and constant monitoring of traffic on key routes can be replaced with automated alerts for issues on the network. We no longer need to send engineers out in polluting vehicles to assess routine street works sites, much of the run-of-the-mill risk assessment can be automated by bringing together powerful data sources and served up in engaging ways that allow our professionals to focus on the bigger, riskier and more unusual jobs.
All this technology makes the day-to-day work of local authority employees quicker and simpler, allowing for more variation within their roles and more time to focus on interesting projects or tasks.
Hearkening back to the earlier comments from the recent graduates now working at local authorities, utilising technology which allows for easy digital collaboration will also make jobs in the sector more appealing.
Having a comprehensive, single shared view of the road network, and a dedicated place to communicate with other teams, the public, utilities and even bordering local authorities about permits, plans and closures, simplifies digital collaboration for all employees, thus improving daily job satisfaction.
Finally, as recognised in the Future Highways Research Group survey, there is a real struggle in the highways sector to hire skilled workers and, to provide them with the training they need. Again, investing in technology can aid and support this challenge. What is crucial, however, is implementing easy-to-use technology that does not require extensive or expensive training.
With over 100 highway authorities using one.network to optimise street works, traffic and network management, we’re demonstrating the power of an intuitive solution to help authorities collaborate easily and digitally.
If you think we can help your authority, get in touch today.