The transport sector is an important engine of growth in all economies. Governments and the private sector are investing substantially in transport infrastructure to improve mobility and connectivity to increase productivity and growth in a safe and sustainable way.
According to PWC, global transport infrastructure spending is expected to total more than $14 trillion from 2016 to 2025. Investing in this sector not only increases economic opportunities and business development, it also boosts job creation. Policy makers and private enterprises need to explicitly harness this employment potential by investing in skills and talent development, particularly in the context of rapidly advancing technology.
A compelling benefit of strengthening skills and talent is that trained and skilled workers will be able to access scores of jobs created by the expanding transport sector.
For instance, Bharatmala, a national highways project worth over $100 billion, is expected to generate over 100 million person-days of work in India. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has proposed that over 350,000 workers are skilled in 2-3 years.
Similarly, the $120 billion Sagarmala national coastal and port city development program has targeted skills development of 1.3 million people based on scoping studies in 21 coastal districts in India. Investing in training for maritime industry is considered crucial given its expected contribution to GDP growth.
Also in India, the first bullet train project (Mumbai to Ahmedabad, estimated to cost over $15 billion) is underway in collaboration with the Government of Japan. A fully dedicated training institute currently being set up in Gujarat with Japan International Cooperation Agency funding will support the project. With an investment of about $100 million, it will be a first-of-its-kind facility to equip over 4,000 people with knowledge of advanced technology and operations of high-speed railways.
The transportation sector is projected to dramatically transform in the coming decade arising from the continued massive expansion of metro rail, rapid transit system, highways and ports in developing countries, along with the ever-increasing pace of adoption of high technology including artificial intelligence.
Safe and sustainable transportation systems in Asia and the Pacific need a new breed of transport professionals, with skills at advanced levels and cutting across domains.
Traditionally the sector has been mostly made up of engineers and technicians, but in the coming years it will recruit more specialists in humanities, economics, social sciences, legal and regulatory affairs, business development and marketing. The new cadres include “smart” and “intelligent” transport engineer and manager, high speed rail network manager and technician, multi-modal transport corridor engineer and technician Big Data analyst, fleet managers and logistics planners.
New paradigms such as intelligent mobility and “mobility as a service” call for an array of additional skills like marketing, advertising, behavioral sciences, and psychology. Economic, legal and business development professionals are crucial to support optimal freight corridors and “just-in-time” transport solutions to increase efficiency and improve quality of life in urban centers. All these require a deeper and wider investment in human capital development to serve the transport sector of tomorrow.
The advent of the digital truck will completely transform freight transport and logistics and supply chains, as shipments to factories, warehouses and end customers will be timed precisely. Digital and cloud-based solutions are likewise expected to alter how the logistics business operates. Investing in the training of the workforce is key to tap the gains of new technologies, and ensure that the transport sector contributes decisively to inclusive, sustainable growth.
To better respond to all these changes, education and training programs should:
- Break down silos between academic degrees and technical qualifications, with more emphasis on “applied” degrees. Combined offerings of degree and vocational courses in vertically integrated institutions would enable holistic talent and skills development.
- Adopt multi-disciplinary training for multi-modal transport systems. With burgeoning urban agglomerations and advent of smart cities, urban transport planners need to straddle communications, logistics, energy, and the environment to manage advanced transport systems.
- Go beyond engineering and science to cover marketing, business, economics, law and regulations, behavioral sciences, and psychology. These capabilities would help to develop cost-effective business models, implement transport as a service, and improve efficiency.
- Support course offerings to increase skill levels of workers, particularly in using high technology. The pervasive use of apps, the rapid growth of high-speed rail networks, and the emergence of artificial intelligence all require transport professionals to have advanced digital skills.
- Promote research and innovation in emerging areas like new materials and autonomous vehicles.
Timely investment by governments to improve education and training for the transport sector will to ensure that more young people can access higher quality jobs. With the increasing adoption of new technologies, new materials, energy-efficient solutions, digital networks and artificial intelligence, youth will find employment in the transport sector increasingly attractive and rewarding. To support this goal, large-scale investments in the transport sector need to be buttressed with concomitant investments in specialized training and standards development for new credentials and qualifications.
A highly skilled workforce is important to develop a safe and sustainable transport system. Without such investment not only would it be difficult to ensure safe and long term maintenance of advanced transport systems, many jobs would also remain unfilled, exacerbating unemployment.
Transport professionals – are you listening?