Upskilling regional communities
A community program to drive positive change is helping the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) plug a skills and labour gap which threatens to disrupt its $18 billion Inland Rail project.
Australia’s largest rail infrastructure project, Inland Rail stretches more than 1,700km across three states and passes through 36 local government areas.
As construction progresses, the project is looking at ways to address the rail sector's skilled labour shortage.
A recent Australasian Railway Association study noted that a forecast skills gap of up to 70,000 workers would be felt most keenly in regional areas.
In 2019 the ARTC launched the Inland Rail Skills Academy with a focus on training workers to meet the project’s needs and helping provide work for communities along its extensive rail alignment.
assisted 23 young people start a bachelor’s degree
encouraged thousands of high-school students to pursue STEM-related opportunities
developed programs to train people from regional communities in skills needed to build, run, and maintain rail services.
“Six to twelve months out from construction on a segment of rail, we look to put people from communities along the alignment through a CERT II in civil construction including plant operations and rail competencies required to enter the rail corridor,” said Jane Roberts, ARTC Program and Social investment & Inland Rail Academy principal.
Graduates are then linked with Inland Rail contractors for further training or employment.
More than 100 people completed training for Phase 1 of the project’s Narrabri to North Star section in New South Wales. The program is now preparing workers for the 39km North Star to Border section.
As well as entry level positions, Inland Rail will need more skilled workers as construction ramps up along the alignment.
In preparation for increased demand, it aims to grow the pool of available workers through partnerships and school programs that encourage more young people to consider a job in rail.
In collaboration with the Clontarf Foundation, Inland Rail is supporting the education, training, and employment of indigenous youth.
A more recent initiative is Grand Opportunities, a virtual work experience program run with Grandshake.
Grandshake engages with students across Inland Rail’s alignment communities, encouraging them to complete online modules and connect with mentors who can prepare them for future employment.
More than 1,500 students have registered for Grand Opportunities modules focusing on in-demand rail skills:
- digital engineering
- civil construction
- electrical technician
- systems and signals operating, and
- environmental planning.
Another four programs are being developed to include broader skills such as project management and decision making.
Future projects include engagement with the CSIRO’s Young Indigenous Women’s STEM Academy, which will give them a chance to showcase opportunities for women in the rail sector.