A new report launched today is calling for a “recruitment revolution” in the talent supply chain as the engineering sector gets ready to deliver the next generation of infrastructure projects.
Skills: Meeting Demand is unveiled today by Costain and the New Civil Engineer (NCE), the day before Chancellor of the Exchequer delivers the Autumn Statement in which infrastructure is set to be a key focus area.
The report points to a diverse range of ‘new blood’ which the sector should seek to attract – from experts in big data to social scientists to planners as well as extra-military personnel and young offenders.
“As we embark on the delivery of the next wave of infrastructure projects, we have a unique opportunity to future-proof the availability of talent with the diverse skills required to deliver them,” says Darren James, Infrastructure Managing Director at Costain. “This could be transformative for the industry and we are driving forward with a recruitment revolution.”
According to the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), a third of the 3,000 civil engineering students graduating every year go into non civil engineering jobs. The ‘lost third’ and the fact that just 15% of engineering graduates are female represent critical opportunities to further build a pool of talent for the industry. The ICE is addressing this by launching a new ‘Academic Partnerships’ programme in which it works with universities to ensure students have the ‘softer skills’ necessary for working in civil engineering.
The report also highlights that the British Army plans to reduce numbers by 20,000 by 2020 and Costain thinks the engineering sector could benefit significantly from the availability of eminently transferable skills of ex-personnel.
Costain believes the solution should be a co-ordinated approach between Government and industry, as well as the higher and further education providers.
Costain does not believe that there is currently a so-called ‘skills gap’ in the UK with Mr James adding: “The UK is rich in talent, delivering highly complex technology-based innovative solutions. As the technology revolution gathers momentum we need a recruitment revolution to ensure a strong supply of people with the requisite skills to deliver a 21st-century infrastructure.
“The Autumn Statement is the Government’s prime opportunity to reinforce the value of infrastructure investment. Whatever the detailed content of the Statement we know it is likely to underpin the need to raise our game on the skills agenda.
“There are a number of supportive activities underway and apprenticeships will play an essential role in developing skills for tomorrow. Elsewhere, there is also large investment going into skills academies, for example the tunnelling academy for Crossrail and the technical colleges for HS2.
“We have already taken big steps forward but now we can really leverage the opportunity ahead and ensure that the UK has in abundance the skills to deliver the major and complex projects we need. We can meet any challenge thrown at us but in order to do so we need to think laterally about how, who and where we recruit,” added Mr James.
Mark Hansford, Editor New Civil Engineer, comments: “With the urgent need for infrastructure to address major societal needs and with the rapid onset of technology transforming how that infrastructure is delivered it is a fantastic time to be in this industry. We now have a fabulous opportunity to look clearly at the skills needed and at the different places these skilled people can be found.”