A SHORTAGE of highway engineers in Scotland has prompted consultants to pay staff bonuses for headhunting experienced engineers, leading Scottish consultants told NCE this week.
Scott Wilson Scotland managing director Jim McCafferty said that Scotland's road sector skills shortage followed the recent call by the Scottish Executive for firms to manage and maintain its trunk road network.
He claimed that the shortage of high calibre engineers was set to escalate as firms became increasingly desperate to break into the market.
'I have heard of firms gearing up from scratch, cherry picking staff and recruiting them,' he said. 'And once they get someone, they are paying a head count bonus', which he described as a commission payable if they brought other staff with them.
The problem was confirmed by Carl Bro divisional director Ewan Angus, who told NCE: 'Skills shortage is the understatement of the century. The Scottish market has suddenly picked up but there is a limited number of quality people and they are all staying put.'
The Scottish Executive is restructuring Scotland's trunk roads from the current eight regional units to four. On Christmas Eve it advertised for network managers to run and maintain the zones for five year periods beginning in April 2001.
The advertisement sparked a flurry of activity in Scotland's road sector as private companies and local authorities have rushed to put tenders together. But a hiatus in highway work in Scotland over the past few years plus the boom in railways has left a shortage of experienced road engineers.
Local authority consortia are expected to dominate the bidding for the network management jobs as they already control much of Scotland's road maintenance plant and labour. But the Scottish assembly is thought to want more private sector involvement in trunk roads, forcing local authorities to compete to form consortia with the private sector.