UK engineers are reporting a surge in confidence according to our most recent survey of over 2,500 engineers and none are feeling more confident than those who work in the rail sector. 72% said they believed their sector would grow or increase its revenues over the next 12 months, which was the highest level of confidence shown by any sector in our survey. This may be no surprise given the significant amount of investment which has been made in rail infrastructure in recent times, particularly in the UK, which has steadily built confidence over time. Recent figures from the Office of Rail and Road suggest demand will continue to rise, with 14% more passengers and 19% more freight forecast by 2019.

In October last year, we discussed the reasons behind why the UK rail industry is booming and this year, the boom looks set to continue. And it’s not just those who are working in the sector who recognise the growth potential of rail; a quarter of the engineers we surveyed believe that rail is the sector which will see the greatest growth over the coming 12 months. Graham Day, Department Manager – Rail, Matchtech explains why confidence is so high:

“Rail is an industry dominated by major capital investment projects. As a result, when a scheme is given the go-ahead it tends to represent a fixed ‘pool of investment’ which usually spans a number of years and can be less volatile to economic and political uncertainty.”

“The planned HS2 build, with cross party backing, will see the rail industry in the UK experience buoyant times in the coming decades.”

Not only are rail engineers optimistic about the future of the sector but they are also feeling confident about their opportunities for career progression in 2017; 67% of rail engineers around the world said they are somewhat or very confident that their career will progress within the next 12 months. But it is not just those who are currently working in rail who have the opportunity to progress in this sector, as Graham explains: 

“Where major rail projects tend to be high in value, our clients look for previous experience working on similar sized schemes within infrastructure. The 2012 Olympic infrastructure and Thames Tideway are examples of projects that have registered interest with our clients when spotted on a CV as they pose similar challenges to that of HS2 or Crossrail, for example.”

“If you’re interested in working in rail, try and work on the biggest projects within your engineering field and even if you’re already working in rail, aim for bigger projects to help you develop your career. Projects are career defining within the rail industry and experience on high profile schemes will boost your profile, knowledge and employability.”

Another finding from our survey was that 40% of rail engineers think their sector has a better reputation and is held in higher regard than it was 12 months ago, with a large number believing this can be attributed to high profile projects (75%) and a smaller number suggesting it is down to greater national and government financial investment in the sector (14%).

Projects such as HS2, Crossrail 2, Bank Station Capacity Upgrade and London Bridge Thameslink Redevelopment are all helping to enhance the reputation of the rail industry amongst engineers and create significant job opportunities. Last week the Government announced that 25,000 jobs and 2,000 apprenticeships will be created during the HS2 construction, boosting Britain’s skills and expertise in this sector. This is great news for those seeking work in the rail sector, but with 69% of rail engineers believing there is a skill shortage in their sector, this could pose a threat to the delivery of this work.

When asked about potential threats to sector growth, rail engineers said reducing budgets (51%), lack of Government investment and strategy to grow the sector (39%) and the ageing workforce (27%) posed the greatest threats. Graham Day addresses these concerns:

“Reducing budgets is a significant factor, with rail companies looking for ever increasing cost effective solutions. While this presents a challenge to the industry, it does also encourage innovation. The issue of an ageing workforce is also a real threat and one that we know very well. The same personnel have been prominent on CTRL, Crossrail, and now HS2; projects spanning over 20 years. Supplementing this experience by encouraging the next generation into the industry is essential to ensuring the lessons of past projects continue to be passed on. “

If you would like to find out more about the confidence of engineers within rail or other sectors, read our Voice of the Workforce Report.

To discuss opportunities in rail, please visit our jobs pages or contact Graham Day on 01489 898183 or via email

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