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Sector Information

GoSkills is the Sector Skills Council for the passenger transport sector. The GoSkills definition of the sector is used in this section, which includes the following sub-sectors:

  • Aviation
  • Bus and coach operations and engineering
  • Community transport
  • Driver Training
  • Inland Waterways
  • Metro, Light Rail and Tram
  • Rail (both light and heavy) operations and engineering
  • Taxi (hackney) and private hire
  • Transport planning

Between 2003-2007, the passenger transport sector’s total turnover rose by 32% to £64 billion, whilst the Gross Value Added (GVA) has risen by 35% to £29.5 billion. The sector has held up reasonably well during the current recession. This is result of companies: reducing staff costs through redundancies; freezing pay and cutting hours; reducing services; multi-skilling staff to improve efficiency; increasing training and increasing marketing activity.

In 2007/08, there were over 7,700 million journeys made on various forms of public transport by bus, coach, tram, light rail, metro, tube, rail and air.

Source: GoSkills AACS LMI report 2010 and GoSkills Sector Skills Assessment 2010


Current and future employment trends

The passenger transport sector currently employs an estimated 700,000 people, which represents an estimated 2.3% of people working in the UK. There are a significant number of sole traders, self-employed and part-time workers particularly in the taxi and private hire and driver training sub-sectors.

Across the UK, employment in the passenger transport sector has risen since 1997 and is expected to continue rising until at least 2017. Between 1997 and 2007 employment rose by 63,000 (12%) and is expected to rise by another 10% (58,000) between 2007 and 2017. Female and part-time workers are expected to be further represented in the workforce in the future.

Source: GoSkills AACS LMI report 2010 and GoSkills Sector Skills Assessment 2010

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Sector organisations

There are an estimated 230,000 employers in the sector. It is dominated by a small number of large employers, with a large number of small and medium sized businesses, sole traders and self-employed operators.

In the bus sub-sector, five large companies dominate the marketplace, while in the taxi and private hire sub-sector the overwhelming majority of drivers are self-employed. In addition to private sector companies, there are also a number of public sector employers, especially in the bus, transport planning and community transport sub-sectors.

Key statistics:

  • 90% of businesses are sole traders.
  • 5% of businesses are micro employing between 2 and 9 people.
  • 3% of business employ between 10 and 49 people, 1% between 50 and 249 and 1% employ 250 or more people.
  • 77% of organisations are in the taxi and private hire sub-sector (77%), followed by driving instruction (16%) (which is due to the high number of sole traders).
  • A high number of sole traders are in the taxi and private hire and driver training sub-sectors.

Source: GoSkills AACS LMI report 2010, GoSkills Sector Skills Assessment 2010 and GoSkills Employer Skills Survey 2009

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Vacancies, recruitment and retention in the sector

22% of businesses in the sector (excluding sole traders) currently have a vacancy and 12% have a hard-to-fill vacancy. The majority of vacancies exist in driver/operative roles (69%). By region/nation, the highest proportion of employers with vacancies are in Yorkshire and Humberside (30%), followed by Wales (29%) and West Midlands (28%).

Among companies with a vacancy, the average number of vacancies is 4.6. Among those with a hard-to fill-vacancies, 2.9 are hard-to-fill. Hard-to-fill vacancies are more common in transport planners (38%) and rail engineering (31%) roles. Having hard-to-fill vacancies is most common in the South West and North East (16% of businesses in each region) and least common in Northern Ireland (2% of businesses).

One in five businesses have recruitment difficulties. Recruitment difficulties are due to applicants lacking the necessary skills (56%) and a general lack of applicants (55%).

Around one in five businesses (excluding sole traders) report having recruitment difficulties. Geographically, businesses based in Wales (34%) and Scotland (34%) were more likely to have recruitment difficulties. Businesses in Northern Ireland were least likely to experience recruitment difficulties (7%).

Looking at the different sub-sectors, in-land water transport (51%), transport planners (40%) and rail engineering (37%) organisations were most likely to report recruitment difficulties.

Less than one in ten businesses (9%) had difficulty retaining staff. Rail engineering businesses were most likely to report difficulties retaining staff (20%) and air passenger transport operations on the ground the least (no businesses reported retention issues).

Source: GoSkills Employer Skills Survey 2009

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Skills gaps and shortages in the sector

53% of businesses have indicated that they currently have at least one skills gap in their workforce. 48% indicated that they have staff who lack generic skills, and 28% had staff that lacked a technical skill.

Vehicle maintenance was the technical skill most likely to be lacking (18%). The sub-sector reporting the highest level of current technical skills needs was driving instruction (32%). Driving skills are thought to need further enhancement by bus companies, coach operators and community transport operations. Vehicle maintenance skills were reported to be deficient in driving instruction, taxi and private hire, coach and air passenger transport operations on the ground businesses.

Of the generic skills, foreign languages (26%) and job-related IT skills (20%) are most commonly in need among existing staff. Gaps in foreign language are noted in driving instructors, taxi/private hire staff, bus operators, air passenger transport operations on the ground and rail operations.

Companies report that skills gaps lead to increased operating costs and a loss of business to competitors.

Source: GoSkills Sector Skills Assessment 2010

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Future skills needs

17% of English passenger transport businesses expect a need for technical skills in the future and 26% anticipate a need for generic skills. Driving (9%) and driving instruction (8%) are the most common technical skills prioritised for the future and job-related IT skills were identified as the most needed future generic skill. Foreign languages, safety/accident management and disability awareness skills were also identified as future skills requirements.

Source: GoSkills Sector Skills Assessment 2010

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Key drivers in the sector

There are several issues driving change in the passenger transport sector, including:

The economySince the economic downturn began there appears to have been a slight downturn in the passenger transport sector in terms of passenger numbers. The majority of bus and coach companies working in the tourism arena have been reporting lower bookings, although others have said that these have been stable. For the aviation sub-sector, passenger numbers declined 8% in the first 8 months of 2009

Consumers – Coupled with increasing competition, consumer expectations are rising. Quality of service is an important differentiator, particularly when there is little to distinguish between the tangible products.

Legislation and regulation – The passenger transport sector is heavily regulated by central and local government and by the EU. The requirement for certain skills may be specified outright in legislation, through contractual obligation, or from the need to meet certain standards of service. There are high security requirements to work in the aviation sub-sector. The Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) is now in force in the bus and coach sub-sectors, requiring drivers to commit to a certain amount of training every five years in order to keep their licence.

Technological change – Businesses involved in engineering, maintenance and repair are affected as engine technology becomes ever more technologically advanced and becomes more reliant on computers both within the engine itself and for diagnostic purposes.

Environmental/ethical issues – New low-carbon vehicles will benefit companies’ profitability as well as helping the environment. The low-carbon sector is an area of growth and high on the Government’s agenda, so there are likely to be more developments in the sector around this area in the future, particularly as fuel-cell technology improves. Alongside the specific interventions, there is a growing demand for travel planners who can develop and oversee schemes to increase the accessibility and attractiveness of passenger transport. There is also an increased requirement for transport planners to plan systems that enhance the effectiveness of passenger transport operations.

Social/demographics – Over the next 10 years, the UK will host a number of large-scale and prestigious sporting events including: The Olympics (2012), The Commonwealth Games (2014), and The Rugby World Cup (2015). All of these events will require an effective passenger transport system able to cope with much larger numbers of people than normal.

Source: GoSkills Sector Skills Assessment UK 2010

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