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CH2M Hill plans major push into UK water sector

Programme manager CH2M Hill wants to recruit 170 engineers into its 600 strong UK-based water operation this year, NCE can reveal this week.

The recruitment drive is to accompany its first aggressive move in the UK market since buying Halcrow in 2011.

“Halcrow has a very strong pedigree in water utilities and on the CH2M Hill side you have got the programme management”

Helen Samuels, CH2M Hill

It is targeting the water sector, as utility companies this year begin engaging with the supply chain ahead of the next £20bn plus, five year spending cycle that begins in 2015.

CH2M Hill believes the combination of its traditional strength in programme management and Halcrow’s strong pedigree in engineering design and modelling, is particularly suited to the water sector’s next five year cycle.

This is expected to focus on driving efficiencies into programmes characterised by large numbers of small projects.

Companies like Thames Water are already engaging with the supply chain, and CH2M Hill water sector European water managing director Helen Samuels hopes that the mix of skills in her company’s armoury will help the firm win a hefty chunk of the work.

“If you look at the water market generally then I am cautiously optimistic,” said Samuels, speaking exclusively to NCE. “But from a CH2M Hill point of view I am minded to be more bullish.”

Following the Halcrow takeover in 2011, CH2M Hill spent a year operating it as a stand-alone firm. It had since fully integrated the consultant within its 4,000- strong UK operation under the leadership of European managing director Mark Fallon. This integration was completed at the end
of last year.

Samuels was at Halcrow before CH2M Hill took over, having joined the firm in 1999. Since 2011 she has been rebuilding her senior management team.

“Halcrow has a very strong pedigree in water utilities and on the CH2M Hill side you have got the programme management,” she said. CH2M Hill is currently programme manager for Thames Water’s London Tideway Tunnels project. “So bringing together the two organisations is quite exciting,” she said.

CH2M Hill also brings with it a global take on technology and innovation and has expertise in operating as a prime contractor, so Samuels believes UK water companies have much to gain from using the firm’s skills.

But to capitalise fully CH2M Hill needs to boost numbers of skilled engineers.

“We need a strong focus on people and it is where we felt we need to put the investment,” said Samuels.

She added that the focus will be on graduate recruitment. “We will be recruiting at least 5% of our water population every year as graduates or technicians and it could be more than that,” she said.

But initially numbers will be boosted by bringing in more experienced engineers.

“I have 40 open vacanciesright now and in terms of overall numbers I am looking at 170 new recruits over the year.”

She stressed that CH2M Hill’s main priority is its existing clients. This also means remaining focused on the UK right now.

“Our loyalty is to our existing clients in the short term,” she said. “Over 90% of our business is in the UK so our focus in the short term is to bring new ideas to existing clients and markets.”

Environment Agency super framework

Firms vying for a place on the Environment Agency’s superframework for design and construction work have just two more weeks to resubmit their bids.

The Agency scrapped its original procurement process in January on legal advice. It reopened bidding on 26 February with a four week tender deadline, leaving firms scrambling to get their bids done in time.

But CH2M Hill European water managing director Helen Samuels applauded the Agency’s approach.

“Running a short procurement process presents a challenge but it does minimise the pain,” she said.

“The Agency did the right thing,” she said. “If it thought there was a problem with the process then absolutely the right thing was to stop and start again.

“And it said it would minimise the reworking needed and it has honoured that, ” she added.

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