Demand for rail has been surging since the mid-90s, with an extra one billion journeys forecast by the mid-2030s

However, between the relatively dated infrastructure and systems in place and this rising demand, there is a clear disconnect and a clear need to take British rail into the future. Thankfully, vast infrastructure projects, such as HS2 and the Elizabeth Line are underway to help meet that target, but beyond that, the industry must embrace technology and digitalise or risk being left behind, especially with those aforementioned projects constantly running over budget.

Efforts are already underway to increasingly integrate technology with rail, with initiatives like ‘The Digital Railway’ pushing to transform the industry with modern signalling and train control technology, with the aim to ensure a more efficient system. While initiatives like these are undoubtedly needed, it is important that they are not at the expense of also modernising the workforce and upskilling the people needed to make these ambitious infrastructure projects happen. If those behind HS2 and The Elizabeth Line are not proficiently skilled, then the end product will also be lacking. This is especially true when considering that YouGov research has shown that only a third of Brits believe themselves to be sufficiently qualified for their roles. For the rail industry specifically, new research by the City & Guilds and the National Skills Academy for Rail (NSAR) have found that the industry faces a critical skills shortage by 2025, ten years short of the mid-2030s target. A skills shortage aside, the upskilling of the industry is also crucial for the sake of safety.

The number of workforce fatalities has actually been increasing, with two deaths from 2018-2019 rising to four in 2019-2020. Having an optimally qualified workforce with proper accreditations is key to providing the safety of everyone involved in a project and ensuring their confidence to work in the environments that they do. This is especially important when considering that only one unqualified worker on a project can lead to hefty fines, if discovered to be the case in a competency audit. This data paints a picture of an industry at a critical moment, with a skills gap issue at its core.

However, a number of digital solutions are already in effect to make sure a well trained workforce can be easily maintained and managed, enabling the mid-2030s target to be more sustainably
met. One noteworthy example of a modern, workforce centric solution is Sopra Steria’s ‘Competency Training MarketplaceTM’, or CTM, which is an industry first in how it combines a training marketplace with a competency management tool, free of charge for employers to use.


Sopra Steria are a European leader in consulting, digital services and software development, which provides end-to-end solutions for a wide range of businesses, with innovation at the forefront of what they do. After extensive market research it identified the need for companies in rail to more easily manage staff competencies and upskill them as a major pain point of the industry with CTM being the solution. The feedback for which, has already been highly positive. The service relies on a comprehensive system but with an elegant and intuitive design, to ensure ease of use and simplifying the competency management process. It uses a few underpinning features, each one providing a unique benefit.

First, the platform offers an extensive marketplace, full of industry accredited bodies and qualifications that can be picked and chosen seamlessly, to suit the needs of an employee. The outcomes of the training are integrated into a ‘training matrix’, which allows employers to oversee who has what qualification, as well as which ones are expiring and who is set to be working on a project. This ensures everyone on a project is sufficiently qualified to be there. This makes the logistical process easier than before too, as the database also tells you who is the right fit for a project, based on qualification level and location, so the right person can be assigned to the right project with full visibility.

This also has implications for business development and winning bids, as it makes it easier to demonstrate a highly competent workforce. CTM integrates competency data with an analytics system, showing you exactly how much you’ve spent on bookings, the main expiring accreditations in your work force and the frequency of expiring qualifications by data, to make the process even easier and more transparent.

With this new product, qualification management has never been simpler. Emma Hughes of Costain said: ‘CTM will have a hugely positive impact for both large and small businesses alike. CTM’s ability to mark out training and provide expiration reminders, all whilst removing the task of finding providers to deliver training, is incomparable to our previous processes.’ CTM was designed to give more peace of mind to employers in the compliance process, while making it easier than ever for the employee to be sufficiently qualified. While the product is still young, having launched in October 2020, it is expected to grab more attention in the coming months and years, as more companies turn to the platform, so it is certainly one to keep an eye on and it may be just the thing to tackle under qualification in the industry.

For those interested in finding out more about CTM, including a free demo, you can find out more via the contact information below.
Tel: +44 (0)7542 858097