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Engineers wanted: Britain's top 20 recruiters

Consulting engineers are recruiting again as they get to grips with growing workloads overseas, and to an extent in the UK. Here NCE profiles those who took on the most engineers last year.

Among a number of other indicators, a strong sign of the first stages of economic recovery is growth of recruitment of civil and structural engineers. Analysis of the entries in this year’s NCE Consultants File, published with this week’s issue, is positive.


In contrast to the downward trend of the past two years, the numbers of engineers recruited by UK firms are back on the up.

To celebrate this fact, NCE is this week naming 2012’s Top 20 Recruiters on the basis of their recruitment over the past year. Between them they report an additional 4,542 civil and structural engineers on their books as of 1 January 2013, an increase of 9% on the year before.

It is not necessarily an upsurge of UK projects that has put recruitment back on an upward path. Several of the top 20 hiring firms report workloads in the UK as being still flat at best.

Growth areas for WSP, for instance, are overseas, mostly in the Middle East. Find out what is driving each firm’s growth here.

01 Aecom

Increase: 638
Engineers employed: 4,048

As a global design and engineering consultancy, Aecom draws on its network of expertise but has surprisingly deep local roots going back decades.

Right now it is working on the M11 highway in Russia to improve connections between Moscow and St Petersburg; it is linking cities in Spain with new high speed rail; refurbishing Glasgow’s subway stations; modernising Romania’s water and wastewater network; and transforming the heart of the Qatari capital, Doha, with the region’s first sustainable urban regeneration scheme.

In Europe, Aecom has 5,000 staff in 80 offices and has an ambitious recruitment programme and continuous plan for investment in staff and skills.

It is particularly proud of the diversity in its business with a range of nationalities, ethnic minorities, cultural and religious backgrounds. It says that by creating teams with different experiences, they learn from each other and grow together.

02 URS

Increase: 540
Engineers employed: 5,340

Recruitment in Europe and India has been a focus for URS during the past year, says the firm’s UK and Ireland managing director Jerome Munro-Lafon. In the UK in particular, URS is hiring across a variety of disciplines to service a range of clients.

“As a fully integrated services provider, we draw on skills across our organisation. We encourage international mobility for all our employees, from graduates to the most seasoned professionals,” says Munro-Lafon. This offers our staff exciting career possibilities, with the potential to acquire new skills or gain experience in new regions and on a diverse range of projects.

“Demand for qualified engineers in rail is strong, due to high-profile projects such as High Speed 2, where we have secured engineering and environmental services contracts, as well as ongoing work for Network Rail. Major project wins in highways have also led to increased recruitment,” he adds.


03 Atkins

Increase: 489
Engineers employed: 7,586

Atkins is one of the world’s leading design, engineering and project management consultancies, employing 17,700 people across the UK, North America, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and Europe. The increase in staffing is a result of a number of its regions experiencing growth over the past year. In particular, Atkins’ UK business is performing well, with headcounts continuing to increase. The Asia Pacific and European businesses are trading well in solid markets and the energy business is enjoying buoyant conditions worldwide, resulting in a 15% headcount increase in the first half of the financial year.

04 ERM

Increase: 457
Engineers employed: 3,826

ERM’s continuing success comes from maintaining focus on a core business strategy, and investing heavily in strengthening client relationships with leading global companies and sponsors of major capital projects.

As an international firm with 140 offices in 39 countries, ERM can deliver support wherever its clients need it. ERM’s global presence means it has continued to grow strongly in Asia Pacific and South America. At the same time it is aiming to keep recruiting and retaining the best people in different parts of the world to deliver the most appropriate outcomes for clients.

05 Hyder Consulting

Increase: 389
Engineers employed: 2,677

Hyder has celebrated a number of highs over the past year, as it continues to benefit from its relationships with clients across the world. Projects include the Mega Reservoirs in Qatar for KahraMaa, London Bridge Station in the UK, and the Regional Rail Link in Australia.

The coming year promises to be full of equally exciting projects.

06 Amey

Increase: 310
Engineers employed: 2,672

Amey is one of the UK’s leading infrastructure support services providers and aims to ensure it has empowered, high performing teams.

The company supports the development of young people’s careers through structured programmes and further training. It is currently recruiting around 200 apprentices and 150 graduates and all will work towards some form of professional qualification.

In 2008 Amey became the first organisation in its sector to introduce a formal wellbeing programme. Its aim is to encourage employees to take an active approach to their health and wellbeing. Amey also holds Investors in People Gold status.

07 Turner & Townsend

Increase: 307
Engineers employed: 2303

Programme manager Turner & Townsend experienced exceptional growth globally during 2012 despite tough economic conditions.

“As a result of this growth, we were required to increase staffing across all of our regions, hiring highly experienced specialists and graduates straight out of university. Our total headcount currently stands at over 3,100,” says chief executive officer Vince Clancy.

“At the start of 2012, we had 1,996 professionals on our books. Twelve months later, that number had risen by 307 to 2,303, with many of these new people coming from the Americas, Asia and the Middle East,” he continues.

“The top performing sectors, where headcount grew the most to accommodate increased demand, were natural resources, utilities, property, rail and aviation. These five core sectors were strong acrossmost global regions.”

08 Buro Happold

Increase: 236
Engineers employed: 713

Buro Happold continues to offer a strong multi-disciplinary range of skills across a range of global locations.

Despite the challenge of current market conditions, the practice continues to expand in Europe and North America and is seeing exciting growth in its environment and infrastructure business.

In broader global locations it is also expanding, with revenue and headcount growth forecast in the Middle East, India, Hong Kong and China. A range of exciting projects and relationships are developing in these areas and resourcing the locations for growth with talented staff continues to be a critical strategic priority.

09 Mace

Increase: 235
Engineers employed: 2,393

Mace expects to report an 11% increase in overall employee numbers during 2012. Its employees thrive on opportunities to work in a diverse company on a range of high profile projects in different market sectors across the globe.

In 2012, Mace took 52 new graduates onto its management training programme, an increase of over 30% from 2011. The firm has also launched the Mace Construction Training Programme in response to the rising cost of university fees and an increase in the number of 16 to 24 year olds out of education, employment or training. The firm has also worked hard to develop its apprenticeship scheme.

10 WSP

Increase: 219
Engineers employed: 6,032

During 2012 total WSP staff numbers increased by 300 to 9,252, giving overall growth of 3%. Growth areas include India, Asia, the Middle East, the United States and Northern Europe.

In terms of actual recruitment, activity has been similar to the previous year. Just under 2,000 new starters joined the firm last yea across the newly combined 15,000 strong WSP Genivar group.

Recruitment is highest in the emerging countries, which are seeing greater growth than, for example, the UK where staffing levels remain static.

In the Middle East WSP is winning work in the growth areas of Qatar and Abu Dhabi, while growth in India reflects the success of the complementary resource centre which supports the work of the UK business.

11 Arup Group

Increase: 206
Engineers employed: 5,278

During 2012 Arup recruited more than 150 graduates for its UK Middle East and Africa (UKMEA) region. This is on a par with pre recession levels, says the firm’s head of human resources for UKMEA Diane Thornhill.

“Arup is committed to attracting those who share our core values, developing skills and striving to provide the work and working conditions that enhances our ability to deliver outstanding projects,” says Thornhill.

The firm has also sought to maintain graduate recruitment in an uncertain global economic climate to ensure that it sustains a pipeline of new talent coming into the group.


Hong Kong: Major infrastructure programmes are now underway

12 Mott MacDonald

Increase: 165
Engineers employed: 6,010

Demand for staff across Mott MacDonald’s business has been driven by strong activity in the oil, power, buildings, infrastructure and transportation sectors.

Recruitment was also fuelled by UK rail projects in the Manchester and Sheffield areas, on London’s Thameslink and Crossrail programmes, and on light rail schemes such as the Nottingham Express Transit tram system. The consultant expects contract wins on both phases of High Speed 2 to contribute to further growth in 2013.

Between them, Europe and Africa represented 42% of Mott MacDonald’s recruitment over the year, while the Middle East and South Asia accounted for 22%. Global intake of new graduates for 2012 was 314.

The 165 graduates recruited into UK positions represented an almost doubling of Mott MacDonald’s UK graduate intake from 88 in 2011. Another 200 graduates are expected to join in 2013.

13 Opus International

Increase: 131
Engineers employed: 316

Opus provides specialist advice and project management across a wide range of sectors. The main areas of work include asset management, architecture, structural design, infrastructure development and environmental planning. The firm has developed rapidly since becoming a private company and now has 2,400 employees working from over 76 offices globally.

Its UK operations saw significant growth in 2012. Opus, and its joint venture partner Arup, were successfully appointed to the Hertfordshire County Council client support term contract. Opus-Arup will work alongside county highways staff, fully integrated with the client in its offices for a seven year term. There is also the opportunity for a five year extension. During 2012 the contract increased the Opus UK team by over 100 people.

Opus UK has also experienced strong growth in strategic markets of rail, water, asset management and energy.

14 Parsons Brinckerhoff

Increase: 50
Engineers employed: 5,500

Parsons Brinckerhoff develops and operates infrastructure, with approximately 14,000 employees in 150 offices in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Americas, Asia and Australia-Pacific regions. The company continues to pursue growth opportunities in its target geographies where it provides strategic consulting, planning, engineering, programme/ construction management and operations for all modes of infrastructure including transportation, power, buildings and infrastructure, water and the environment.

Offering many exciting career opportunities, Parsons Brinckerhoff is at the forefront of innovation in its markets.

15 Pell Frischmann

Increase: 34
Engineers employed: 769

Pell Frischmann employs over 900 staff in 12 offices across the UK, Middle East and India. Recently the firm has been involved in the award winning restoration of the Forth Rail Bridge, New Delhi International Airport and the single largest (£625M) water supply upgrade in Northern Iraq.

This year, there are signs of growth in several specific sectors and the firm is looking for staff across the UK. In London, the buildings team continues to expand and is looking specifically for experienced geotechnical engineers. In the North East and the Midlands the rail business is flourishing and Pell Frischmann is looking for junior and mid-level engineers. In the South West, the water business is equally buoyant and the firm is seeking mid- and senior level staff.

16 Morgan Sindall Professional Services

Increase: 32
Engineers employed: 113

Morgan Sindall has seen growth in professional services across the UK and internationally, primarily within infrastructure sectors.

In the UK, key wins in aviation and rail include the Gatwick Airport multidisciplinary design framework, Crossrail C510 Whitechapel & Liverpool Street stations design and C512 Whitechapel main station works.

Internationally the catalyst for growth has been the life sciences and chemicals sector where it has growing portfolios of work with world leading pharmaceutical companies.

Morgan Sindall is a long term supporter of students through the ICE’s Queen’s Jubilee Scholarship Trust (Quest) scheme. Graduates and trainees at Morgan Sindall are supported internally through industry accredited training schemes.

The business played a leading role in the establishment of an MSc in tunnelling and underground space at the University of Warwick, supporting the next generation of world leaders in tunnelling design.


Qatar: Many firms are reporting higher workloads on the back infrastructure work for the 2022 Fifa World Cup

17 Byrne Looby Partners

Increase: 28
Engineers employed: 65

Byrne Looby Partners is a leading international consulting engineering practice, with offices in the UK, Ireland and the Middle East. It offers a range of heavy civil engineering design services to its UK and international clients in the civil, structural, geotechnical, water and marine sectors. Recent projects include some of the UK’s most significant schemes such as the Shard, Crossrail, Heathrow Terminal 2, the M25 upgrade and the redevelopment of King’s Cross.

Byrne Looby is undergoing significant growth. The firm seeks to employ design engineers with a strong knowledge of construction techniques, as its core expertise is in the buildability of its solutions. Byrne Looby has recently expanded its staff by approximately 50% in response to a growing order book of UK and international projects.

18 Wardell Armstrong

Increase: 26
Engineers employed: 310

Wardell Armstrong is an independent multi-disciplinary engineering consultancy working on a number of interesting civil engineering projects around the world.

The firm is UK based, with overseas offices in Russia and Kazakhstan. It now has 400 employees, with its head office is in Stoke-on-Trent and regional offices in Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leigh, London, Newcastle upon Tyne, Sheffield and West Bromwich.

The firm also has two subsidiary companies, Wardell Armstrong International, based in Cornwall, and Wardell Archaeology, based in Cumbria.

Wardell Armstrong is predicting further growth this year and next, in waste and land remediation and environmental consultancy in particular in the UK.

19 Black & Veatch

Increase: 25
Engineers employed: 1,034

Black & Veatch aims to live up to its mission statement - Building a World of Difference - by helping to improve and sustain the quality of life for communities around the globe. The consultant believes this philosophy helps make it attractive to employees with a desire to make their mark on the world.

In the UK, Black & Veatch is delivering water, flood defence and renewable energy infrastructure. The water market has remained buoyant in challenging economic conditions, and Black & Veatch has been able to continue recruiting staff to support an increased workload for utilities, government and private sector clients.

Black & Veatch also believes its integrated consulting/ contracting delivery model makes it an employer of choice. It offers diverse opportunities and the chance to gain experience of global engineering practices.

20 Capita Symonds

Increase: 25
Engineers employed: 961

Capita Symonds is one of the UK’s largest and most diverse multi-disciplinary consultancies offering a range of design, infrastructure, management, and real estate services.

With over 4,000 staff in over 50 UK and international offices it works across a wide variety of sectors and provides a range of design and consultancy services for the civil engineering industry.

Over the past year Capita Symonds’ recruitment has been UK based and predominantly driven by High Speed 2 and by three other major projects - the Queen Elizabeth Park Olympic Legacy project, Crossrail (Westborne Park design), and Gatwick Airport railway station.

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