Young infrastructure professionals test top ten proposals for driving change

The YPP responds to the National Infrastructure Strategy and our recent 2021 Annual Monitoring Report.

Published: 15 Mar 2021

By: YPP Members

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Our Young Professionals Panel considers the government’s National Infrastructure Strategy and Budget and puts forward its top ten recommendations in response to the Strategy and the Commission’s recent Annual Monitoring Report.

The government’s National Infrastructure Strategy and Budget have committed to infrastructure investment to meet the priorities of net zero and levelling up, but do the commitments go far enough?

The infrastructure we design, plan and build today will play a key role in impacting the daily lives of younger generations as a greater proportion of their lives will be spent utilising this infrastructure. Consequently, we need to ensure that decisions taken today account for their needs, and that the right support is in place to help them to develop impactful careers in the sector. As such, the Young Professionals Panel (YPP) recognises that investment in skills and the creation of opportunities is as important as setting the roadmap of future major infrastructure projects.
Established in 2018, the YPP supports and informs the Commission’s work to ensure a strong voice for the next generation of infrastructure leaders. As a group of professionals from across the industry, we look to engage younger audiences in shaping the future of the UK’s infrastructure and provide fresh thinking to the Commission’s work in long term infrastructure planning. With this in mind, the YPP puts forward its #YPPTopTen recommendations in response to the NIS and the Commission’s subsequent 2021 Annual Monitoring Report (AMR).

The YPP favours a holistic and outcomes-based approach to infrastructure challenges and promotes further efforts to shift the focus of our infrastructure planning and decision making to an approach that is measured and driven by both provision and outcomes. This helps to ensure that decisions are more closely aligned with how well the infrastructure unlocks purported benefits, going beyond an assumption that they will be unlocked through provision alone. To ensure such decision-making provides benefits extending through generations, the YPP urges greater focus be placed on the recruitment and development of young and diverse people to drive long-lasting representation across all occupations within the sector.
To create strong and enduring regional opportunities, the YPP supports more substantive devolution of funding powers to local authorities, and in particular for transport planning. The strength of local and regional planning is its opportunity to think systematically and reap the opportunities and efficiencies of connected thinking across sectors and collaboration between stakeholders, which can only be achieved with long term funding clarity and commitment. Funding should be supported by increased training for key decision-makers at all levels to ensure that developing best practice is embedded locally and that money is invested most efficiently.
Finally, there are a number of key opportunities that should be given significant consideration in the plans that follow the NIS. Given the importance of net zero in creating a sustainable future for younger generations, new infrastructure investments should help the country towards a net zero future rather that hindering it. They should capitalise on initiatives that could serve multiple benefits, such as green public transport which could reduce congestion and improve connectivity whilst achieving net zero goals.
Whist the NIS and Budget provide a hugely positive platform to address our infrastructure challenges, we must do more to inspire young people to access a career in the sector and break through the largely fragmented and siloed structures through which we engage. This will help to facilitate a holistic and outcomes-based approach that is fit for the needs of younger generations, nationally effective but locally coherent, and that is net zero ready.

 Recommendation
Graphic of a phone mast1. The Government begins to track more outcome-based metrics for progress on digital infrastructure, such as uptake and digital inclusion by demographic groups to ensure that digital coverage reduces rather than exacerbates existing inequalities
Graphic of a computer2. The Government adopts a more integrative approach to encourage collaboration based on existing commitments. For example, utilising Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) to deliver economic advantages more effectively across the UK; benefitting regional industries, reducing economic leakage, and supporting ‘levelling up’
Graphic of someone using a whiteboard3. Training for key decision-makers following the Green Book Review should extend substantially beyond HMT and Whitehall to include those working in local and combined authorities to ensure that best practice is embedded locally
Graphic of a lightbulb4. Increased focus on how the next generation of infrastructure professionals will be developed. Targeting skills shortages in occupations critical to our infrastructure, such as engineering and digital by creating a suitable proportion of roles at early-career and entry levels in the public sector and local government
Graphic of someone using a whiteboard5. Training and engagement should inspire young people to access a career in infrastructure. Introducing specific measures supported by a roadmap and committed funding focused on recruiting a more diverse workforce and improving existing initiatives such as T-levels and apprenticeships to ensure goals translate to reality
Graphic of a town hall6. The roles created as part of the new UK Infrastructure Bank and civil service regionalisation programme should include a significant number at early-careers and entry levels to ensure that the best opportunities to start a career in infrastructure public sector roles are increasingly spread across the UK
Graphic of a town hall7. The new Infrastructure Bank should target levelling-up and net-zero Initiatives. Consideration should be given to how this can most effectively support green infrastructure initiatives that promote reducing inequalities whilst ensuring that existing private investment is not crowded out
Graphic of a train8. The Government should seize the de-carbonisation opportunity presented by mode shift to rail. As one of the greenest modes of transport available, rail should be a key focus in the proposed Transport Decarbonisation Plan
Graphic of a house9. Noting that the NIS states an ambition to implement its Future Homes Standard in the shortest possible timeframe before 2025, the Government’s ‘10-point plan’ for tackling climate change should consider reinstatement of a 2023 deadline
Graphic of wind turbines10. A whole-system approach is taken to decarbonise our energy use, exploiting synergies across sectors that would otherwise be missed and which could benefit from shared innovations

This is the first of our #YPPTopTen blog series. Upcoming posts will delve into our recommendations and why we consider them important in setting the roadmap for our future infrastructure landscape. Our suggestions and output will reflect the feedback and interactions generated from our upcoming engagement events with fellow young professionals. Follow us on LinkedIn and sign up to our newsletters for updates and to find out more about our events and podcasts.

 

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