Do we have enough skills for the building of future infrastructure?
Recent budget announcements have supported the need for a greater investment in infrastructure in the UK. A 2015 report by PWC[i] cited that spending in UK infrastructure was likely to increase to £110bn by 2025. While this is positive news for the industry, ensuring that funding is being made available for the infrastructure needed, the question remains – who will be building it?
Currently there is a reported shortfall of 59000 engineers compared to what is needed in the industry. This is compounded by the fact that many top engineers are coming up for retirement age. While young engineers may be entering the industry, there aren’t enough of them and it will take time before they get to the right level of skill and experience.
Similarly in other construction roles, companies are reporting difficulty in finding the right people for the roles available. So what can be done to ensure that there will be enough skills to support the future of building in the UK’s infrastructure sector?
In Germany a great deal of value is placed on apprenticeships and this has borne fruit in securing skills and passing on experience to younger people entering the construction industry. By comparison the UK infrastructure sector has a lot of catching up to do. However, the apprenticeship levy may prove to be the incentive needed for companies to offer more apprenticeships that can help upskill the workforce.
The Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) admits that more could be done to create awareness of the job opportunities that exist in infrastructure in order to attract young talent. There are many roles that require engineering skills in different forms. Programs in schools can do much to promote the opportunities that exist in the workplace and incentivize school leavers to choose to study in related fields.
Importing talent from other sectors:
As technology becomes a greater influence on construction it will require people who have the ability to integrate the two effectively. This means that professionals from other sectors such as robotics or information technology could have a greater role to play in construction companies. Once again, if greater awareness is created of the opportunities that exist in construction, then companies will be able to attract professionals with the right type of knowledge and expertise to add value to the business.