Is a Blend of Skills more Vital than ever?

It remains a focus for the industry to attract, build and retain a blended workforce which is future fit.

There are worries about skills shortages and the retaining of skilled talent. And yet, the demands continue- we must build more houses and schools, create more transport infrastructure and keep Britain moving.

We cannot afford to let apprenticeships and other trainee programmes decline.  There is a growing need to recruit more diverse engineers; the numbers of diverse in engineering still remains undesirably low, with the UK coming in as one the worst rate in Europe- at less than 10%. We continue to see the need for making the industry more attractive and diverse people and then helping them secure roles in leadership positions.

CITB forecasts show that the industry’s pipeline will require almost 36,000 new workers annually through to 2021, however this will leave grave gaps in specialist areas. This is not a new problem- we have been talking about the skills shortage for years and there is lots of work going on within the industry to help bridge our widening skills shortage. This includes the Apprenticeship Levy, work by the CITB, FIR to name but a few.

Up-skilling is vital for today’s engineers who need broad and agile skills so that they can thrive in a moving technical and digital world.

At Osborne, to help our early-career engineers obtain such skills, we give them the opportunity to work outside the business for approximately 9 months. This gives them a fresh and alternative perspective on civil engineering, and they return as better engineers. Through a long established exchange programme with a select list of design consultancies, our engineers are swapped with one of theirs. Working with top designers, they gain experience not only of the design process but also of BIM, architecture, sustainability, geotechnics and many other design aspects. One of the biggest benefits is the interaction with a new community of engineers and the resulting networks established. In addition, the consultant’s engineers gain invaluable site experience though being placed on one of our projects.

A blend of skills is important but we do need to help make the image of our industry more appealing to attract and retain people. This is an exciting industry, with exciting projects and a wide scope for people to develop and flourish. But if we don’t address the skills shortage together, there is a fear that the vision for infrastructure could be hazy.

For existing skill sets, increasing efforts are being made to encourage people to return to the industry. Apprenticeship places and skills academies are growing (though not fast enough). And innovative programmes to welcome and embrace and more diverse workforce into the industry are being developed. However, all of these efforts need to be accelerated. We must continue to showcase the industry and attract people to it.