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NCE Live News Updates Monday 16 September: Business chiefs' infrastructure scepticism

Report shows only a third of executives expect improvement in Britain’s infrastructure over next five years

4.45pm: Bolton-based contractor Seddon has called for a shake-up of how college students learn about construction.

The firm said many students who applied for apprenticeships had not been prepared by further education courses for real work on site.

Director of business services Nicola Hodkinson said: “It’s not a question of someone joining us and finishing their training on site – we are effectively having to start from scratch with them.”

She added: “An alternative would be to actually start funding the industry for training, not just the colleges.”


4pm: More major consultants have revealed increased graduate numbers this September.

Mott MacDonald told NCE it took on 212 graduates this year, up from 166 last year and just 82 the year before.

Arup welcomed 162 graduates into its UK business this month, up from 150 last September.

WSP said its graduate intake would be about 70 once all placements were filled, which it said “continued an upwards trend”.

CH2M Hill said it had exceeded targets by employing 48 graduates this year, an increase on the year before.

This all follows Atkins’ announcement (see 11am, below) that it took on 330 graduates this month - up from 230 last year.


12.30pm: The Highways Agency is to brief suppliers later this month about a new framework worth up to £5bn.

The client will hold an event at the NEC in Birmingham on 24 September ahead of issuing a call for bids in OJEU in October.

It said the four-year Collaborative Delivery Framework would be used for delivery of its SR13 capital investment programme.

This will include £3.8bn of major works; £700M for junction, super pinch point and asset renewal works; and £500M of work from other government departments.


11am: Atkins has taken on more than 300 graduates.

The engineering consultancy welcomed 330 university leavers and 75 apprentices this month as it bids to ward off future skills shortages.

Atkins UK HR director Sue Cooper said: “The future of our industry and its ability to create a better quality of life for us all depends on attracting and retaining the most talented young people within the design, engineering and project management fields.

“It is widely acknowledged that there is likely to be a shortage of suitably qualified young people to deliver the technically complex and time critical challenges in the years ahead. This coupled with increasing worldwide demand for infrastructure and other engineering capabilities means companies in our sector need to address the issue now.”


10:30am: Up at the Liberal Democrat party conference in Glasgow, transport minister Norman Baker has defended the controversial HS2 project.

Baker dismissed “desperate” attacks on the proposed rail link between London and the North, and insisted the scheme had cross-party support.

He said all three main parties understood the importance of the project to tackle capacity problems.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin last week insisted HS2 could come in under budget. Critics have warned the cost could spiral.


10am: First up this morning, two-thirds of business chiefs believe government policies will fail to boost infrastructure development.

The Connect More survey by the CBI and accountancy KPMG found that only 35% of executives believed improved rhetoric from Westminster would benefit them over the next five years.

CBI director-general John Cridland said: “Quality infrastructure is vital for boosting exports, unlocking business investment across the UK and supporting our leading firms – an essential element of a meaningful industrial strategy.”

He added: “We can’t afford any further delay. The coalition must show strong leadership and prove the UK can deliver on a small number of projects over the next 18 months and reach a much-needed consensus on bigger issues such as aviation and roads reform.”

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