2020 was the year that no one could have predicted, so let’s hope that 2021 is a little more plain sailing!
In last week’s newsletter we looked back at how we thought the year would play out. This week we thought we would have another stab predicting what trends we think 2021 will have in store for the transport and infrastructure sector.
From our conversations with clients, candidates, networks and colleagues; we predict 10 major trends that may take shape across our industries.
1. Home Working
Lockdown meant that anyone who could has been working from home for the best part of the year. Systems are now in place to make the virtual office a reality for a lot more people than ever before, and we would be naïve to think that things will ever return to the way they were.
However, home working isn’t for everyone. It’s a pretty mixed bag when you start talking to people about what their ideal setup is. Going forward, I think we will see a lot of younger professionals, who are maybe flat or house sharing, return to the office and those who are mid-career onwards opting to work from home for 3+ days a week.
2. Drain on TOC talent
The Train Operating Company job market is due for a shake-up. We’ve already seen a large reduction in group HQ teams since franchise bid activity ceased in 2019.
With the new reforms from the Williams review likely to overhaul the market, such as responsibility for commercial revenue and many planning activities being handed to a new central rail body, expect to see a large turnover in TOC leadership teams. The new form of rail contracts won’t be for every TOC director and many will vote with their feet.
The most likely places we expect to see TOC execs moving to are; Network Rail, the new central rail body (whatever that might look like), overseas transport operators or moving into other industries, such as energy.
3. Growth in Decarbonisation and Sustainability expertise
In 2020 the UK saw major strides in pushing sustainability up the agenda. But 2021 is where real change needs to happen.
We expect to see the role of the Sustainability leader within organisations become a more senior, exec level position as opposed to mid management level.
Public sector agencies have carbon targets to hit and private sector suppliers such as contractors, are already seeing a higher weighting towards sustainability given in tenders, which will drive decarbonisation solutions.
Consultancies will also grow their sustainability practices and the competition for good people at senior level will be fierce.
4. Electric Vehicle Infrastructure
With alternatively fuelled vehicles now making up roughly 10% of total car sales, and an estimated 1 million EV cars predicted to be on UK roads, the future of EVs in the UK is looking promising.
EV infrastructure is going to be big business next year and beyond, if the government have any hope of hitting their 2030 objective.
Local authorities are seeking to let land to private companies to install charging points on and take a cut of the profits. Expect to see streets near you being dug up for EV infrastructure (or fibre broadband installation) in the near future.
5. Public Sector Consulting Fees on the Up
This is a trend we have seen this year and expect to continue into 2021.
COVID and Brexit have had serious impacts on the private sector, making it a massively uncertain market to invest in. Many firms have chosen to hold off on big projects, opting to wait and see what happens next.
In contrast, the public sector has had their work cut out for them as a result of COVID and Brexit. Infrastructure projects have had a boost in order to keep the economy going, and tenders for consultancy contracts with Public Sector clients just keep on coming in a bid to keep things moving.
6. BAME Diversity
In 2020 the Black Lives Matter movement raised awareness of BAME equality to new levels. However, while gender diversity in the industry has received huge focus in recent years, BAME diversity has not received the same attention thus far.
In the next year, expect to see much greater action taken to improve BAME diversity. This will most likely start with pay gap reporting as we did for gender diversity back in 2017.
7. Real Job Creation from HS2
HS2 finally got going earlier this year, and as the project advances, we are already beginning to see the benefits to the job market that have been boasted about by government and HS2 for so many years. 2021 has the civils work progressing, the rolling stock tender award and rail systems contract bidding, all of which will create demand.
8. Advances in Electricity & Power
Again, thanks to decarbonation targets, the electricity and power market is highly likely to get a huge boost next year.
Government will have to act on new nuclear build, with Sizewell C likely to get backing soon and SNRs gaining support. Offshore wind activity will step up, and hydrogen and carbon capture will attract investment.
Some large businesses are also looking to grid connected battery storage systems, opening up further opportunities for energy companies in this field.
All of this will result in a lot more job creation within the power sector.
9. We will lose one of the Top UK Contractors
I’ll admit, it’s not the most festive of predictions, but it’s unlikely that all the big names are going to survive another year. Whether someone is acquired, merged or falls into administration, I think we will see at least one of the big boys missing from the league tables this time next year.
10. International Moves
COVID put a stop to many international job moves this year, with borders shutting and people uncertain of making such momentous choices in such uncertain times.
Hopefully, as the vaccine is adopted around the globe, and things slowly start returning to some semblance of normality international recruitment will open up again in 2021. Expect to see UK execs securing major roles out in Australia, Canada and the like from spring 2021.
As we near the end of one of the strangest years we have ever had to face, what are your predictions for the year ahead?
Hopefully, if nothing else, the pubs will get to reopen by this time next year!
Have a very merry (socially distanced) Christmas and a Happy New Year from all of us at Newsom Consulting.