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A good future is dependent on training up good staff

Like it or not, change is heading our way. Big change. It has to or, to be perfectly blunt, we’re all going to the wall.

A bit melodramatic perhaps, but we really do have to face the reality that success in the future will not just require us to be better, more efficient or more innovative than today. And it will not be enough to simply offer clients a cheaper price.

No, real success tomorrow will be firmly rooted in our ability to change the way we fundamentally approach and solve problems.

It’s the one clear common denominator when thinking about how the UK industry rises to the challenge of delivering more for less, and emerges triumphant and stronger from the current economic downturn.

“For all this radical change, we need to employ the best people with the best skills”

As this week’s cover feature points out, all parts of the industry will have substantial roles to play in delivering a successful future for UK infrastructure.

Because while it must start with strong leadership and support from clients to set the aspiration and drive change into their projects and programmes, they cannot operate alone.

The sheer scale of the challenge we now face to keep developing our vital national infrastructure with less resources and the need for less carbon means everyone will have to tear up their traditional rules of engagement.

The distinction between consultants, contractors and suppliers is gradually and increasingly eroding. It will be a scary arena as players from around the world and from other markets bring new and adventurous ideas to the clients’ table.

“Delivering more for less starts with good ideas. And good ideas come from well trained and well motivated staff.”

But for all this radical change, what will remain as a foundation of our infrastructure delivery is the need to employ the best people and the need for the best skills and expertise across the construction process.

Without this we really are in trouble. Which is why this is a good week for infrastructure.

Good because after much behind the scenes persuasion, the government has finally committed £5M to support the new Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy in Newham, London. It has also pumped £3M each into new National Skills Academies for rail engineering, logistics and green building services plus another £2.9M into a National Skills Academy for Power.

Investment in these “economically valuable skills”, said business secretary Peter Mandelson, “means not just getting the economy growing again, but asking and answering the big questions about how we are going to pay our way in the world ten years from now”.

Absolutely. Wherever you are in the infrastructure supply chain, delivering more for less starts with good ideas. And good ideas come from good, well trained and well motivated staff. This latest investment therefore holds the key.

  • Antony Oliver is NCE’s editor

Readers' comments (1)

  • Have to agree with this whole-heartedly but was staggered to read the MWH profile in NCE the same week. Having persuaded my daughter to follow the CivEng M.Eng and Soil Mechanics route at Imperial, they offered her a Graduate Training opportunity and signed a contract last January 2009 whilst on her M.Sc to start in September - she finished the Masters in August last year, and they then gave her less than two weeks notice that "not taking on graduates...till Xmas maybe", HR said. No word till December from them, then it was "Easter maybe". How firms can sign employment contracts to take on staff, repudiate them and then spout the stuff they have in NCE this week is beyond me; i wouldn't say it's put her off Civil Engineering, but it was a big jolt (and an Imperial CivEng graduate is pretty well thought of?)

    Mike Summersgill, C.Eng, C.Env, SiLC

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