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In Demand: UK is calling out for civil engineers

As the construction industry sees an increase in activity levels, there is growing optimism among contractors that the end of the downturn is in sight. With a growth in workloads comes a demand for more skilled workers. However, at Anderselite, we are aware that the UK is currently experiencing a shortfall in the number of qualified civil engineers, which could have an impact on the speed of the recovery.

Increase in new orders
According to the Civil Engineering Contractors Association's (CECA) workload trends survey for the third quarter of 2013, more construction companies are experiencing a rise in activity. Some 58% of companies saw an increase in work in the past year from the same time last year.
This has led to a more positive outlook across the industry, with 40% of them expecting this growth to continue next year. In order to push forward with this increased activity, contractors are demanding more qualified workers. Two thirds of those in England who responded to the survey were anticipating an increase in the number of employees they hire over the next year.

Data from the Construction Products Association's construction trade survey for Q3 is also a positive point for the industry. Contractors saw activity increase for the second quarter in a row and its members are anticipating further growth in the next year. 
All areas of the industry recorded an increase, with private new housing the main force behind the rise with 29% of contractors reporting a growth in activity levels. A total of 30% of specialist contractors who responded saw an increase in demand for new work and 30% of civil engineering companies also reported a rise in new orders.

Lack of qualified engineers
With so much positivity surrounding the industry at the moment, the lack of available qualified engineers is a serious issue. This particular career has suffered in recent years from its negative image and has fallen behind other options, which are perceived as more professional and with higher earning potential.

The government has enlisted the help of the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to provide advice on how this situation can be rectified. Professor John Perkins' report states that the government needs to take steps now to bridge the gap between the number of positions available and those willing to take on the work.

One of his suggestions is to encourage an increase in the uptake of vocational courses, which are often not given the same status as academic qualifications. Professor Perkins wants to see collaboration between schools, businesses and trade bodies to help rectify this anomaly. This will be aided from next year by the availability of a £30 billion fund from the government. Companies will be able to apply for a share of the money to help improve the flow of new skilled workers into the industry.

This aim of stimulating the demand for construction skills courses is shared by the Civil Engineering Contractors Association North West. A report from the trade body suggests a system of careers advice where the need for skilled workers is linked to training providers. This would require up to date data from employers about their requirements, which could then be matched with the skills of newly qualified students. With a more advanced system, the flow of skilled employees from colleges could be better managed.

Construction is the life blood of the economy
A sustained growth within the construction industry will boost overall economic activity, meaning that the demand for civil engineers is not just a concern for one area of the economy. According to the CECA, for every additional £1 that is spent on infrastructure, the GDP of the country rises by £1.30. In addition, each £1 invested in construction infrastructure leads to economic activity rising by £2.84. The growth in jobs within the industry also has a wider impact. Every extra 1,000 jobs created in the industry will see a total of 3,050 new positions available.

With more data and reports showing further growth within the construction industry, there is widely held optimism that companies are now riding out the recession. Activity levels and orders books are growing and an increase in the available workforce will help to sustain these levels into the future and make Britain a training ground for civil engineering excellence.
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