Navigating the plethora of targeted sector specific, age specific or diversity focused skills initiatives is a challenge – as an industry we do love segmentation.
To properly understand the skills picture of the whole sector, a bird’s eye view is required. Where in the system do the current strengths lie? The profession of project management has moved from strength to strength supported by the Association for Project Management and Major Projects Association alongside government-led initiatives like the Major Projects Leadership Academy. What impact has this had on the system? It has certainly played a part in the continued strong pipeline of capital programmes. Major deals like Thames Tideway Tunnel, Hinkley and Crossrail are a correlation between capability development, the confidence it inspires and the decision to proceed. Infrastructure UK played a major part in this through the development of the Treasury’s finance capability.
What does this mean for the outcomes required for society, the customer of this system? Is it universally good news? Is this system optimally balanced with complementary skills? This is where the challenges lie; the deal makers of the finance and project management worlds will only best serve society if guided by an overarching strategy. They are deliverers, not strategists; this is where we need to now turn our attention.
The National Infrastructure Commission will bring the strategic direction and outcomes for customers. The publication of the National Infrastructure Assessment should provide a clear customer-focused route map.
The capability of the infrastructure owners and asset managers to turn these long-term outcomes into a reality will be put to the test.
They will be leading the asset system strategy and providing the framework for the deal makers.
They are the power behind the throne, often doing so by quietly and unassumingly hoarding knowledge and expertise in their field with careers spanning multiple decades.
Area of opportunity
This is the biggest area of opportunity, as Phil Wilbraham and his Project 13 “Capable Owner” workstream will attest. There is much to be gained by developing and enhancing this capability with some of the new and diverse talent joining the industry.
Equally the disruption of digital transformation and all that it offers in enhanced asset management and analysis will open up a whole new realm of possibilities for the asset owners. If you’re not convinced yet why wouldn’t you move into this area?
The publication of Dame Judith Hackitt’s review will bring into sharp focus where the built environment system has vulnerabilities, including through an imbalance of skills and capability across the system. ICE will take this on board as part of Peter Hansford’s In Plain Sight Review. Finally, Ed McCann is looking to the future of the profession with his Skills Review for ICE Council.
However these various initiatives are taken forward – each playing a crucial role in the continuous improvement of the system – the question we should be asking ourselves is: how do we balance, complement and enhance each other’s capabilities so the system is optimised for our customers?