Worker shortages have taken their toll on quite a number of industries in recent years, and the rail sector is no exception. The industry will need to hire more than 80,000 workers within the next six years in order to meet the increasing demand for transportation — for both people and commodities. Multiple factors must be considered when tackling the issue. Right now, the industry is trying its best to lure prospective candidates with financial incentives, such as signing bonuses worth thousands of dollars and more comprehensive benefits packages.
America’s focus on traditional schooling and career training is partly to blame, but the rail industry also has a reputation for involving exceedingly difficult, grueling work. Salaries simply don’t go as far as they used to in many regions; the industry’s rules and regulations are viewed as rigid and overly complex; workers are sometimes subjected to intense scrutiny, even in the form of supervisory drones; the hectic work schedules don’t leave much room for downtime; accidents are common; employees are given basic or inadequate benefits packages; and signing bonuses often involve a lot of fine print.
Overall conditions make for a challenging work environment, putting off prospective employees and painting an unappealing picture for the younger generation entering the workforce. The boomers are keeping things afloat right now, but many are retiring or reaching retirement age.
The rail industry must work to revamp its image. Heavy-handed, bureaucratic company policies have taken the shine off rail industry jobs, and while signing bonuses are certainly a solid starting point, the internal culture needs a complete overhaul. Improving the morale of current employees is a good place to start, helping to improve current conditions while also helping to attract the new generation of rail workers.
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