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The need for a well-trained and competent highways workforce has never been higher as the impact of budgetary cutbacks, maintenance backlogs and extreme weather takes an ever increasing toll on the local road network. With local authorities having to reduce or even disband their inhouse training programmes, the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) continues to develop its CPD training courses and assessment services for both operatives and asset managers and engineers.

Against the background of budget restrictions there are other drivers for a well-trained workforce. Road maintenance continues to have a high priority with the public and they expect right-first-time maintenance and repair solutions rather than poorly carried out patch-and-mend. In addition, local authorities when forwarding their case for road maintenance funding must demonstrate the competence of their decision makers and workforce. The need for accessible, industry recognised highway engineer and operative training has never been greater.

Increasingly, local authorities are turning to industry associations to provide training programmes. Established as an industry sector focus, the RSTA is well placed to provide a training resource. The Association has invested in and continues to develop a comprehensive CPD approved training programme specific to the road maintenance sector. The programme offers training in surface dressing, slurry surfacing (microsurfacing) and high friction surfacing. In addition, there are seminars showcasing all available road surface treatments. Where appropriate the CPD training courses are linked to National Highway Sector Scheme 13 for the Supply and Application of Road Surface Treatments and RSTA is also able to assess operatives at NVQ Level 2,  supervisors at  NVQ Level 3 and managers at NVQ Level 4. RSTA deliver courses all over the UK and often these are in-house courses for highway authorities, consultants and contractors which provides economies of scale benefits. RSTA has also developed a Diploma in Road Surface Treatments with the University of Derby and the Institute of Asphalt Technology (IAT).

“If road maintenance and repair are to be successfully undertaken then the right surface treatments need to be correctly specified and carried out by well-trained and competent decision makers and workforce”, said Paul Boss, RSTA Chief Executive. “That is what ensures quality of work, best practice, improved health and safety, better value and increased efficiency.”

In addition, RSTA is working closely with organisations such as LCRIG to deliver specific training events that facilitate best value through collaboration by allowing local authorities to train together. The RSTA also collaborates with Xais Asset Management to provide skid resistance policy courses for local authorities.

Boss commented: “We encourage local authorities to collaborate and get engineers together from neighbouring authorities as well as their own staff.  We can provide training courses within local authorities’ own premises for a fixed cost. Not only does this save on associated travel and hotel costs by taking the course to the learners, but by local authorities grouping together to get higher numbers of attendees for a one off fixed cost, the cost per learner is reduced, making those training budgets go further.”

He concluded: “Despite having to reduce training budgets, local authorities must  prove the competence of their decision makers and workforce for additional funding and to meet the expectations of the public. RSTA is working with them to avoid the potholes by plugging the training gap.”