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Transport Systems Catapult says UK must invest in skills for emerging transport technology market

According to a new report from the Transport Systems Catapult (TSC), the UK’s technology and innovation center for intelligent mobility, the UK must close emerging skills gaps in the transport sector, or risk relegating the country to the back of the pack for decades in a global transport technology race.

The report is described as a call to action for government, academia and industry to invest in a skills strategy that enables the UK to achieve global industry leadership in the rapidly growing field of ‘intelligent mobility’, which is forecast to grow to £900bn (US$1.1tn) per annum by 2025. The report warns that if no action is taken across the entire skills pipeline, an estimated £50bn (US$61.5bn) in GDP per annum could be lost. New technology, such as self-driving vehicles, and changing business models, such as the sharing economy and Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS), coupled with growing digital capabilities, will herald a new age in transport according to the TSC. This new landscape offers enormous export, productivity improvement, and job opportunities for those who have the right skills to prosper. However, while a technology transformation is taking place, the labor market needs to be enhanced with new skills if it is to lead to new jobs and economic growth for the UK.

Key findings in the intelligent mobility skills strategy are:
• The UK faces a potential skills gap of 742,000 people by 2025;
• ‘Disruptive’ high value digital skills are in short supply;
• Transport industry experts strongly prefer higher degree apprenticeships;
• An integrated range of interventions is needed to address the skills shortfall. The industry and research participants agreed that no single intervention will address the shortfall in IM skills;
• Proactive efforts need to be made to attract women to the industry;
• The UK can adopt rapid, novel, low cost international interventions.

“Previous investment in skills development and innovation in our leading aerospace or automotive sectors has helped produce world beating industries. However, we now stand on the brink of a transport revolution driven by a new generation of technology,” noted the TSC’s CEO, Steve Yianni.

“This digital revolution is fundamentally changing the labor market. Rapid improvements in autonomous systems and artificial intelligence are enabling the automation of a broader range of non-routine manual tasks. With improved sensing technology being developed in the field of robotics, jobs in transportation and logistics could become fully automatable. However, there are also enormous opportunities to create new, highly skilled jobs within the industry as we develop these new products and services.”

TSC skills program director, Yolande Herbath, added, “None of our international competitors are being complacent. American federal investment is doubling to help bring these technologies to the commercial market, and we are seeing initiatives in places like Germany to prepare economies for this change. We have a unique opportunity to develop a labor force capable of competing in an emerging transport technology economy. If we don’t act, we risk relegating ourselves to the back of the pack for decades.”

November 3, 2016

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