So, is there really a signalling skills shortage?

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28 May 2015

We hear time and time again that “you’ll never find a good Signalling Engineer in that location” … “they’re a dying breed” … “Signalling is a black art” …. Have you been told this? Or heard this? But is it really? Or is it all a myth?

In our line of work we come across these challenges and comments every single week when recruiting within signalling.

Yes, there are just 2,590 Engineers that hold an IRSE Licence in the UK, but why can’t we create a bigger appeal to draw interest from other industries and challenge ‘the norm’? Arguably a design team from an aerospace background can, given the proper training, get up to speed quicker than a team of graduates.

Broaden your horizons

Hiring Managers are unknowingly scare mongering with the above statements and Signalling Engineers are quickly pricing themselves out of the market which is essentially creating the perceived skills shortage.

Companies often rank “rail industry” as one of the main attributes for a new recruit, however Hiring Managers must open their eyes to look outside of the rail industry to markets such as ex-military, automotive and aerospace industries where signalling can easily become a transferable skill.

You can go back ten years and read articles about signalling being a ‘black art’. Back then there was a focus on encouraging engineering professionals to join as electrical engineers who then quickly acquired a whole new range of skills in signalling, which became transferable. Why can’t this be the case in 2015? Training should be offered to those shifting between markets to offer conversion courses, support them and increase their competencies and skill sets.

So, why would someone join the signalling arena?

First things first, it’s not just about the salary – even though that’s very favourable, it’s also about the variety of projects, the chance to work within a live environment and it’s an industry that sees huge government funding and numerous international opportunities.

Apprenticeships have seen a sudden surge in recent years with a focus on encouraging young people into engineering, in particular rail. Back when I was at college, students weren’t being pushed towards the rail sector, nowadays students can clearly see the investment in the sector and every university employment fair has a strong rail presence.

So, this is our appeal – to anyone hiring over the next 12 months; challenge ‘the norm’ and to anyone thinking of a career change; don’t be put off by not having experience within the rail market.


by David Perrin, Senior Recruitment Consultant, Signalling & Infrastructure

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