Highlights from the NSAR Skills Symposium 2023: Mandy Hickson’s inspiring keynote and skills insights from industry leaders

A big thank you to everyone who attended our Skills Symposium last week. It was great to see you all and discuss important topics in the rail industry and wider.


Mandy Hickson’s keynote speech

We were so pleased to welcome Mandy Hickson as the keynote speaker of the Skills Symposium. Her speech was entertaining and humorous and gave a fantastic insight into her struggle to make it as a woman in a male-dominated industry. Mandy spoke about the importance of embracing diversity to unlock innovation and building skills and competencies to enable teams to perform well in any situation.

Case studies

Many thanks to Lydia Fairman from Network Rail, Rob Forde from the Global Centre of Rail Excellence (GCRE) and Josh Brear from East Midlands Railway (EMR) for their valuable insights across a range of topics.

Lydia spoke about the skills shortages rail faces and how we can address them. She raised the importance of encouraging work experience, T Levels and apprenticeships and creating a bridge between school and the industry. Lydia advocated for a collective approach – such as Routes into Rail and shared apprenticeship schemes like NSAR’s FJAA – and a focus on skills, diversity and social mobility to make a meaningful impact in the industry.

Rob explained how the establishment of a purpose-built rail innovation centre will address the lack of facilities in the UK for testing and showcasing rail technologies. Building the GCRE in Wales will also create jobs in an area where they are needed. The centre aims to tap into the innovative capabilities of young people, promoting STEM education and collaborating with local schools and universities to develop a long-term talent pipeline.

Josh discussed the significance of competence, emphasising that it is not limited to just training and assessment. It extends beyond technical skills to include non-technical skills, functional skills, knowledge, experience and attitude. The consequences of incompetence are high, so the tracking and management of all types of competencies is essential. EMR has recently begun using Skills ID, NSAR’s competency management system.

Their slides are available here.


Scroll to Top