19 JUN 2023


The drive to support the unemployed and upskill people ready for work with HS2, its construction partners, and the wider supply chain, has led to 3,221 people on track to a new career.

The new workers, from across the UK including Wales, the north-west, the north-east, Yorkshire and Humber, and the south-east, represent 10% of the workforce supporting HS2’s construction.

Natalie Penrose, HS2’s head of legacy, said: “We’re exceptionally proud that we’ve helped over 3,000 unemployed people in England and Wales start a new career on HS2. Whether through apprenticeships, specialist fast-track training programmes, or referrals from our partner agencies, every candidate has gained new skills and vital work experience that will put them on track for a promising future.”

Through partnerships with local authorities, employment support services and charities, HS2 is working collaboratively to support people who want to work but need additional support or training.

Dedicated HS2 Skills Academies, run in partnership with local training providers and colleges, are delivering hundreds of free training programmes to help people build new skills. In tandem, HS2’s contractors provide work trials to give prospective candidates an insight into the industry, helping them to understand the career pathways and progression opportunities.

Training programmes have so far helped candidates to launch careers in ecology, planning, CAD and Design, engineering, plant operations and support functions including finance and community engagement. HS2’s construction has also helped 250 university graduates transition straight into careers aligned to their specialist subject areas.

Among those to have launched a new career is 26-year-old Alisha Bhakta, from Birmingham. She graduated from De Montford University, Leicester, with an honours degree in English language and literature, but struggled to find a suitable job for months. The chance to start a work placement with Balfour Beatty VINCI (BBV), HS2’s construction partner for the West Midlands, sparked the career turnaround she was looking for. After completing her placement in 2020, Alisha immediately secured a permanent role in BBV’s document control team. Now three years on, she has secured two promotions and transitioned into a role in information management.

“I would never have considered that a career in construction might be for me, but that’s the great thing about a project of HS2’s size and scale, as there are so many opportunities,” said Bhakta.

“I work with a fantastic team at BBV and my confidence has grown. Moving out of my comfort zone and into something new has really helped me, and my career, to progress.”

Paul-Kelly Blazquez, from Birmingham, is also climbing the career ladder at BBV having completed a four-week work placement. He was initially referred to BBV by Remploy, a local charity that supports people with disabilities and matches them to companies that can support their needs.

Over the last five years, his career at BBV has flourished. He completed a two-year business administration apprenticeship, was promoted into a new role in IT, and now leads his own team, ensuring that all BBV’s online applications run smoothly.

“I’ve received so much support from the team at BBV,” he said. "They have helped me to develop a career doing what I love and working in IT. I’ve progressed from being a trainee to an apprentice, right up to being a team leader, and now I get to support our new apprentices on their career journey.”

HS2’s construction partner, Align JV, is also helping unemployed people into work. As a covid graduate, Queenie Villarente had been struggling to find a role that suited her studies in engineering. At the end of 2020, she secured a space on Align’s pre-employment programme, which specifically supported women looking to start a career in construction. She secured a position working on HS2 as a plant clerk and is now a TBM (tunnel boring machine) control room and data engineer.

Villarente, from Hillingdon, said: “My experience at Align so far has been amazing. The environment in which I work is definitely a good place for growth and development.

“It’s a place where my voice and opinion matters, with every day offering new challenges and opportunities. I work as part of a team which is very united, working together to achieve our goals. I am very happy to be part of what is a fantastic project.”

For more information about careers on HS2, visit


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