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Lack of talent to hit public sector schemes, warns EY

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Upcoming public sector projects could see delays and cost hikes due to a shortage of regional project management talent, according to professional services firm EY.

The talent drought will hit the public sector because of stiff competition with an upcoming £500bn of national infrastructure programmes, such as Hinkley Point C and Heathrow expansion, said EY.

On Monday (11 September) Heathrow skills taskforce leader Lord Blunkett told New Civil Engineer about plans for Heathrow’s skills academy, which will train engineers and construction workers.

As a result of competition with the private sector, public sector bodies could face having to pay more for in-demand project management skills, and a lack of skilled labour could stall schemes. EY has released a series of recommendations to tackle the problem, advising public sector clients to be flexible on skills requirements and get to grips with outsourcing.

According to EY the East of England and the South West are already seeing the biggest skills drought, with five times more roles than workers available in the east; several planned offshore wind farms are contributing to the demand. Meanwhile London has two professionals for every position advertised.

“We’ve never seen such an increase in demand for project management, commercial and financial skills across infrastructure and government at the same time,” said EY government and public sector partner Joe Stringer.

“Combined with the geographic nature of infrastructure programmes, decision makers in most regions can’t assume the skills are there and need to think creatively and embrace better ways of working to ensure that they can deliver projects in a way that provides value for money.”

Among other recommendations, EY suggests public sector employers structure project timelines to avoid competition for talent, offer flexible contracts and work with professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply to attract the right skills to projects.

In July John Uff, author of skills report UK Engineering 2016, warned that continued failings to attract more young people into engineering careers had created “huge problems” for the sector.

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