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Viewpoint: Ensuring the future

ICE’s David Lloyd Roach on how in order to maintain the industry, we must look after the future

No one knows better than the ICE, yourselves and the wider engineering community, how important civil engineering is to the UK. Retaining global competitiveness and ensuring economic productivity hinges on being able to provide innovative engineering solutions to new problems, as well as building and maintaining sustainable, effective infrastructure.

However, skills shortages continue to threaten our profession. We are operating in a much tougher economic climate and organisations are having to make cuts across the board. It is crucial that we look to the future, realising that cutting investment in skills development now will only hinder us in the long-term.

“It is crucial that we look to the future, realising that cutting investment in skills development now will only hinder us in the long-term.”

Developing solutions to growing global challenges such as climate change, population growth and urbanisation requires a highly skilled workforce. Technicians are fundamental to achieving this, providing invaluable technical and practical support to civil engineering teams.

Currently though, a lack of skilled technicians is causing shortages elsewhere in the industry. Graduates are too often being misemployed to fill these vital operational roles, which in turn is delaying progression to qualification and creating a shortage of qualified engineers. With this domino like effect, the situation will only worsen if not tackled.

The ICE is committed to addressing the skills gap. Currently technicians are grossly under-represented in our membership and we want this to change.

ICE solutions

To this end, we are building on our apprenticeship scheme which offers an alternative route to membership, as well as working with universities to integrate professional training and qualification into foundation degrees for those who have the prerequisite experience.

However, none of this is possible without the support of employers, who need to be proactive in redressing the imbalance. The ICE can and will promote the case for technicians and provide the means for them to become qualified, but employers need to do the groundwork, looking at the way teams are structured and identifying and addressing skills shortages. Investing in training and development that encompasses apprenticeships and vocational programmes is essential.

Time for action

An ICE seminar showed that there is industry-wide support for this mission, with representatives from several leading employers, including Scott Wilson, Network Rail and the Environment Agency, speaking about the role of technicians and apprentices in meeting client and business needs, as well as setting out the case for companybased training programmes.

However, we need more action. The ICE will continue to take the lead, promoting the recruitment and development of skilled technicians, but calls on industry to also rise to the challenge. We need to act now to ensure we can meet the demands of the future.

  • David Lloyd Roach is director of ICE membership

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