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In practice

Sydney Metro Workforce Development and Industry Participation Plan


Sydney, Australia—

  • Sydney Metro is Australia’s biggest public transport project and includes the operational Metro North West Line, and three lines under construction: Sydney Metro City & Southwest, Sydney Metro West and Sydney Metro – Western Sydney Airport.

  • Sydney Metro’s Workforce Development and Industry Participation Plan details the project’s approach to generating sustainable jobs and skills for a more diverse and inclusive workforce and supply chain. These are achieved through a combination of contractual requirements regarding local employment, training and diversity and inclusion, as well as accompanying workforce development programs.

  • Strong government-industry partnerships, extensive research and intelligence gathering and monitoring, as well as encouraging ownership over the targets on the part of contractors have been key to the success of the programme.

What are the objectives?

Sydney Metro is Australia's biggest public transport project, with more than AUD 60 billion (EUR 37 billion) invested in developing the country's first fully automated rail service. Such a project requires the mobilisation of a highly skilled workforce to ensure that the design, construction and operation of the railway are delivered safely on time, and within budget.

Workforce Development and Industry Participation is a holistic concept that sets out how the project will build a pipeline of resources to design, construct and operate the railway, leave a lasting skills legacy for industry, inspire future talent whilst also addressing challenges relating to skills, employment, diversity and the supply chain. It covers a wide range of key activities, strategies and policies to develop individuals, the organisation and industry in which they operate.

Sydney Metro’s Workforce Development and Industry Plan launched in 2014. Its priorities include:

  • Industry participation – increase opportunities for employment of local people, participation of SMEs including Recognised Aboriginal Businesses, and support industry to compete in both home and global markets through active participation in client-led programs.

  • Workforce skills development – enable targeted and transferable skills development in areas with local and national skills shortages, support changing job roles and increase skill requirements, and embed transferable skills in the workforce.

  • Diversity and inclusion – establish initiatives to increase diversity within the workforce and supply chain through collaborative partnerships with a key focus on Aboriginal participation.

  • Inspiring future talent and developing capacity – engage young people via education and work experience and support vocational career development through apprenticeship and traineeship programs.

  • Collaboration – collaborate with organisations that have a shared interest in driving skills, diversity, jobs and industry capacity through infrastructure projects.

How does it work in practice?

The Workforce Development and Industry Participation Plan is delivered by embedding its targets into contract requirements, in line with the NSW Government’s procurement policies. Sydney Metro’s minimum requirements include 20% local job creation, 20% of the workforce must undertake upskilling accredited training, mandatory pre-commencement training for high-risk occupations, targets for apprentices and trainees, and employment and training targets for under-represented groups.

To support contracting partners in meeting these obligations, Sydney Metro has created complementary workforce development programs, including the following:

  • The Sydney Metro Industry Curriculum program is mandatory training which employees are required to complete prior to working on a Sydney Metro site. The program ensures minimum workforce competency requirements are met and improvements in work health and safety, leadership, quality and productivity are achieved. Programs have been developed in partnership with registered training organisations (RTOs), and result in nationally recognised units to support transferability of skills and career development. In addition, as part of Sydney Metro’s Aboriginal Participation plan, all workers at supervisory level are required to undertake cultural awareness training to build skills associated with successful engagement and creating a culturally safe environment.

  • The Pre-Employment Program equips long-term unemployed and under-represented groups with accredited entry-level skills and connects participants with potential employers through training and a mentoring process. One of the program’s key approaches is to embed team building and communications skills with the technical components of the course, with small group activities requiring participants to work collaboratively.

  • Sydney Metro Apprenticeship Program opens doors for apprentices, who are hired by a Group Training Organisation (GTO) as a Sydney Metro apprentice, rather than being employed by a particular contractor. This provides each apprentice with the opportunity to rotate between contractors/projects as determined and facilitated by the GTO. The program also provides mentoring and additional training and support as required.

What has been the impact?

Sydney Metro is creating new workforce development standards for large-scale projects through its strategic approach. Its pre-employment program and Skills and Employment Advisory Group (SEAG) are recognised as best practices and replicated in other sectors and projects across Australia. The NSW Department of Education has launched the Infrastructure Skills Legacy Program (ISLP) based on the training and employment requirements introduced through Sydney Metro as a demonstration pilot project. More than 6 000 people have benefited from Sydney Metro Workforce Development programs, with many workers receiving appropriate support and accredited training. Since the programme was established in 2014, the Pre-Employment Program has also proven to be successful, with 83% of participants transitioning to employment.

What can other communities learn from this example?

The programme's success is based on:

  • Research and consultation with industry/employers, government, and the training sector to inform the strategy.

  • Strong industry-government training partnerships through the Skills and Employment Advisory Group.

  • Adapting targets to each contractor and project delivery phase.

  • Pairing contractual requirements with workforce profiles, scope of works and development programmes.

  • Strong political and operational leadership from Sydney Metro and the NSW Department of Education.

OECD resources

OECD (2019), "Taking a sector-based approach to workplace training – Sydney Metro Case Study", in Engaging Employers and Developing Skills at the Local Level in Australia, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/f9598afa-en

The power of the public purse: leveraging procurement to support jobs and training for disadvantaged groups