On 17 July 2015 the first networking and collaborative event of the UIC Global Network of Railway Talents was attended by some 50 participants from 25 countries across Europe, Asia, Australia and Latin America. Among the attendees were not only senior but also young railway professionals, academics and researchers, railway students and consultants.
The official launch of the Railway Talents project successfully started with a get-together dinner on the evening of 16 July at Northern Stage on Newcastle University campus. It then continued on the morning of 17 July at the Great North Museum: Hancock, opening with a video welcome message from UIC Director General, Jean-Pierre Loubinoux.
After a warm welcome to the “pioneers of the UIC Global Network of Railway Talents”, Jean Pierre Loubinoux stressed the importance of the meeting, stating:
As the demand for rail is growing there has never been a better time to join the railway industry.
We cannot miss this opportunity and UIC as the global association of railways has a key role to play in supporting all its members in their “war for attracting and keeping their talents” […] ”Transmission of knowledge is one of their [UIC members] key global challenges, as well as for the UIC which endorses it”[…]
The railway sector does not only need to take all possible actions to attract new talents in the rail industry, but also needs to give serious consideration to employer branding, including international mobility, developing talent within the organisation and access to international networks to develop a global approach to individual careers.”[………]
Nathalie Amirault, Head of the Expertise Development Unit at UIC, who presented the TALENT project, added to that by saying:
Providing a sustainable solution that responds to the needs of a growing economy, rail offers society a competitive, environmentally friendly transport solution. Massive investments in rail are expected in the years and decades to come. The economic globalisation and reform of the rail transport systems create new requirements for workforce development. Railways need talents able to operate on the global stage and to collaborate across functions as well as cultures."
Mrs Amirault then stated that the main aims of the project are providing a unique platform for international cooperation between different stakeholders, which will in turn stimulate innovation; setting up new partnerships; improving and facilitating the process of transfer of knowledge and best practice; contributing to improving the image of the railway industry and encouraging diversity management inside companies.
The morning session was later continued by two key note speakers: Dr Janene Piip, Managing Director JP Research and Consulting from Australia, and Mr Roy Rowlands, from the Rail Technology Magazine (RTM).
Dr Piip is currently aiding the Australian government with talent projects in different sectors, including rail and in the past she has attended several events organised by UIC, including the world rail training congresses in Austria and Portugal, SIAFI international training programme…) She recommended participation in similar events as a way of developing one’s career and meeting people in the international rail environment and added that it is also a beneficial way of networking with other peers who share similar interests.
Mr Rowlands is a Business Development Director at RTM, which is one of the key publishers of the UK rail industry, and is responsible for the operational running and development of all activities within the aforementioned vertical market. He is also responsible for running Gen Y Rail, which is RTM’s programme aimed at engaging 11 – 19 year-old students across the UK and is comprised of both educational and engagement events. One of the topics he addressed in his speech was youth engagement practices in order to promote careers in the railway industry.
The morning continued with an active “speed networking” session, which encouraged the participants to mix and communicate with their peers in addition to creating new networking contacts. In the afternoon, the attendees took part in “world cafe workshops” that prompted them to brainstorm and come up with ideas on how to make the railway sector attractive for the best talents in the job market. The workshops included the topics such as how to attract and engage students in the industry, how to develop and grow and later retain and commit talents in the sector. Some of the quotes of workshops’ participants included:
Talented people like autonomy to work on the areas that they find interesting. However, they sometimes need some guidance. Talent is developed by always pushing people slightly beyond their comfort zone. Talent needs to be challenged, without pointless conflict. It needs to be unleashed sometimes."
We need an equivalent of the Erasmus Programme for railways in Europe, an exchange programme to foster the flow of knowledge. This should encompass all organisational levels, from signallers up to management, and allow long secondments in other countries."
Take a look at the different jobs in the industry within the company, share practices across the companies. Instead of keeping the confidentiality, share good practices."
Long term experience is needed in many roles in railways; talent is not something that can be procured on demand."
In general, the event proved to be a success and has generated positive reactions and reviews.
The official launch of the Railway Talent event was organised in partnership with RailNewcastle Conference 2015.