“Skills gap” puts breaks on UK infrastructure

A recent CECA report highlights the importance of encouraging young people to enter engineering courses as recruiters struggle to fill vacancies


A recent survey carried out by the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) stated that rising inflation and a shortage of skilled workers in the engineering sector have become the primary concern for its members. With large amounts of public money set aside for huge infrastructure projects in the UK, such as HS2 and Crossrail, the CECA’s members are expecting their workloads to increase considerably over the next year.  The boost in demand is a positive sign for the industry and the wider economy, but without the necessary work force the engineering sector risks progress being impeded.

“In essence we’re starting to see new growth in the infrastructure sector. However, the unprecedented length of the downturn has meant that the industry has lost a significant number of skilled workers, who have either gone to work in the infrastructure sector overseas, or have left the industry altogether,” said Alasdair Reisner, Director of External Affairs at the Civil Engineering Contractors Association.

“In order to address this skills gap, we need to have better understanding of likely areas of future demand, so that we can put in place training that will deliver the skills we need. It is essential that we have good graduate and apprenticeship routes into the industry, and there is a pressing need to avoid an escalation of employment costs due to a lack of availability. Such an escalation would have a negative impact on growth in the industry, and in the wider economy,” he added.

When speaking in an interview with the Independent, Keith Lewis, managing director of engineering recruitment company Matchtech, expressed concerns over the shortage. He said that the short supply of skilled workers would inevitably lead labour costs to rise and that the Government needed to do something to encourage more youngsters to take up engineering as a profession. “Clearly, there is a monetary impact with a number of programmes running concurrently,” he explained. “The reality is we have an aging workforce and the task is how we get more youth into engineering.”