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Engineer shortage prompts Commons debate

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PARLIAMENT WILL this week discuss how to combat the UK's severe shortage of engineers in a Commons debate on the future of the construction industry.

The debate, to be opened by minister for construction Nick Raynsford, is expected to focus on the shortage which, reportedly, has forced Railtrack to consider recruiting signalling engineers from South Africa and prompted engineering recruitment firms to target Australia.

MP for Scarborough and Whitby Lawrie Quinn - a chartered civil engineer - told NCE this week: 'There is great concern about a shortage of skilled people working in engineering in the UK.'

Referring to recent press reports of electricians being recruited from the Indian sub-continent to work on the West Coast Mainline, he added: 'I would like to see British engineers, consultants and contractors at the forefront of the construction industry's revival.'

Quinn will use the debate to call for a summit of the key providers of education in the construction industry to discuss how to qualify more skilled people.

His views were backed by Construction Industry Council chief executive Graham Whitehead. He said: 'For the first time the construction industry skills shortage is extending to the professions. We are greatly concerned about the decline in applications for degree courses in engineering and building/construction disciplines over a period in which graduate demand is increasing.'

Watts added: 'We will lose the capability to bring in overseas earnings if the graduate supply continues to decline. The problem requires urgent attention by the Government and the professional bodies working in partnership.'

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