Report predicts skills shortage could lead to higher costs and delays for UK water projects

Posted: Thursday 5th February 2015

A new report published by design, engineering and project management consultancy, Atkins, predicts that the UK’s shortage of engineering skills could lead to a number of challenges for the future development of upcoming key water infrastructure projects. The report highlights a number of consequences including increased costs, delay to projects, stifling of innovation and damage to the economy.

The study – The Skills Deficit: Consequences and opportunities for UK infrastructurecompiles the views of more than 40 experts from infrastructure owners, engineering consultancies and contractors, academia and industry bodies, with a particular focus on how they believed the UK’s predicted lack of skills could impact on the delivery the government’s National Infrastructure Plan. The full report focuses on four key sectors including: Water, Energy, Digital Infrastructure and Transport. The main consequences throughout the report include:

· Increased cost of delivering infrastructure, primarily due to wage inflation

· Delays to project delivery on key infrastructure projects across all sectors

· Poor decision making or project delivery due to not having the right people in the right jobs

· Loss of intellectual property and skills from the UK due to increased use of overseas engineers

· Stifling of innovation due to lack of resources

· UK plc becoming a less attractive place to live, work and invest due to the country’s capability to deliver new or upgraded infrastructure.

The report also estimates that the government and industry will need to invest £2.5 billion in training and development to provide enough skills to meet the country’s infrastructure requirements over the next decade.

Mike Woolgar, Atkins’ water director, commented: “The shortage is occurring where investment is being focused. We’ve more people leaving the sector to go into energy because they can see that more money is being put into the sector. When we start to build more railways, this will add pressure too.”

Nick Roberts, Atkins’ chief executive officer, UK & Europe, commented: “There is a multibillion pound pipeline of infrastructure projects to be delivered over the coming years to meet the needs of a growing population and the evolving way we live and work in the 21st Century. However, all these schemes rely on having the people with the right skills available to deliver them. There is a need for industry, academia, government and institutions to work together more closely now to avoid the consequences for the UK’s infrastructure highlighted in the report becoming a reality.”

The industry is already investing significantly in initiatives to attract more young people into the profession. In addition to these, the report proposes a number of potential solutions and recommendations to address the skills shortage, including:

· Making better use of innovation and technology to enable engineers to be more productive

· Better planning, prioritisation and coordination of resources across all infrastructure types so projects don’t compete for scarce resources

· Invest more in developing transferable skills so people can operate across different projects and industries

· Early supplier involvement in major projects to ensure the right questions are asked at the outset and the proposed solutions are deliverable

· Address immigration issues to ensure important, highly skilled roles don’t remain empty

· Industry to commit to providing more career entry routes for young people

· Greater focus on diversity to create a larger pool of potential scientists and engineers

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