HS2’s workforce passes 30,000 milestone

The number of people in jobs, supporting HS2’s construction, has hit a record high. Data released on 13 November confirms over 30,000 people are now helping to build the new high speed network linking the UK’s first and second cities.

Employment numbers grew by 455 for the period July – September 2023, taking HS2’s total workforce 30,204 – the highest figure to date. The employment boost reflects the scale of progress on the London – Birmingham network during the summer months.

In the Midlands, three bridge moves were completed in just one month, works began on the longest green tunnel in Northants, and six tunnel boring machines continued to make headway through the Chilterns, London, and Warwickshire.

With record numbers of jobs created and sustained across the country, HS2 continues to deliver a much-needed boost to regional economies. The sharp focus on tackling unemployment, and creating a skilled workforce for the future, also progressed at pace. In the last quarter, 298 people who were out of work benefitted from bespoke training programmes which led to them starting new careers on the project. The total number of formerly unemployed, now working on HS2, has reached 3,826.

HS2’s long-term investment in apprenticeships also continued. 81 new apprentice starts were recorded during July and September, taking the total number of new apprentice starts since Royal Assent to 1380.

Natalie Penrose, HS2’s Head of Legacy said: “We made a cast iron commitment to ensuring HS2’s construction would support thousands of young people, and the unemployed, into meaningful careers. Three years into our heavy civils works, we’ve achieved just that.

“We remain focused on our goal of creating 2,000 apprenticeships and helping as many people as possible to upskill, retrain and start a new career.”

21-year-old Ben Bacon from Birmingham recently started a tunnelling operative apprenticeship on HS2 with Balfour Beatty VINCI (BBV). He’d been in and out of jobs since Covid, most recently working in a warehouse, but was laid off because there wasn’t enough work.

Ben said: “I was claiming job seekers allowance, and because I have learning difficulties, I was put in touch with the Shaw Trust. They help match people to companies that offer additional support.

“BBV said they’d invest in training me up, through an apprenticeship, and ensure I had the support I needed. I was one of ten apprentices they took on, and I’ve not looked back. I always wanted to work in construction, but just couldn’t find the right route in. Now I’m progressing through my training and really enjoying the camaraderie of being part of the tunnelling team. I want to continue progressing at the rate I am. In previous jobs I’ve just been a number, it’s not like that here, they really care, regardless of your background, you can succeed.”

The number of UK businesses in HS2’s supply chain also increased in the last quarter, with 144 more companies winning work. 3,236 UK firms are now supplying goods, services, and materials to support the project’s construction.

Image credit: HS2

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