Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

NCE100 | Future Engineer Awards

future engineer

Having a passion for talent development is one of the hallmarks of a industry-leading firm. 

With the Royal Academy of Engineering confirming that the UK will need 1M new engineers and technicians in the next five years, many of the NCE100 companies are working to address this shortfall and ensure a pipeline of future talent for our businesses.

Talent development strategies focus predominately on nurturing staff from within and promoting internally whenever possible, with many of the NCE100 firms boasting new or revamped development programmes for graduates, apprentices and career-builders.

future engineer

Eighty five of our 100 firms have ICE training agreements; the average pass rate is 85% and it takes an average of four years for engineers to successfully and sit and pass the review. 

Our 100 firms recruited 3,514 graduates in the UK in 2015.

Worldwide, our firms recruited 7,063 graduates, representing 6% of the global workforce.

The NCE100 firms have 990 apprentices training towards a professional qualification, an average of 13 per firm

 Student bursary schemes are in scarce supply. Just 15% of graduates are recruited from a student sponsorship or bursary scheme.

Investment in students is modest. Just a handful of firms invest more than half a percentage point or more of their turnover in such schemes. Investment in apprentices is also modest. The NCE100 firms have 990 apprentices training towards a professional qualification, an average of 13 per firm (when skipped questions are accounted for). 

The average investment across the 100 is 1% of overall turnover. 

Work is underway to improve this.

We strongly encourage staff to represent their profession in the wider world, and their commitment is recognised

Mott MacDonald has one of the sector’s largest apprenticeship programmes and is a founder member of the Technician Apprenticeships Consortium, which works to bring together engineering consultancy firms to enable them to meet their business needs through the recruitment and training of technician apprentices.

Arup is also heavily involved and is seeing positive results, particularly around diversity. Previously it had low number of female applicants, but in 2015 nine of its 45 apprentices were female.

Bam Nuttall is big on apprentices. Apprenticeships are advertised online on higher education websites, as well as social networking sites. The best candidates selected by its apprenticeship team are invited to attend one of five recruitment days to talk to engineers, quantity surveyors and current apprentices and the apprenticeship team. It took on 51 apprentices in 2015.

Promoting the profession

Taking an interest in promoting the profession is also the hallmark of a good firm and 60 of our 100 firms have incentive schemes for employees who work with schools. But they don’t invest much in them – the average is less than 1% of turnover.

NCE100 Company of the Year Opus International says: “We strongly encourage staff to represent their profession in the wider world, and their commitment to doing so is recognised and rewarded as part of their performance reviews and also through our staff award scheme. 

“We also run a number of approved training schemes with the ICE, each of which has a key focus on ensuring staff are involved in the community, with their commitment being directly linked to their professional development and ability to gain chartered status.”

STEM ambassadors

To establish which activities its staff can take part in, all of its offices have science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) ambassadors who work closely with parish councils, local committees, schools and universities and regional media, including the BBC and ITV.

This is a common thread. The NCE100 firms provide 2,498 STEM ambassadors in total, with Mott MacDonald, our Contribution to the Profession Award winner, showing real leadership here (see left)

Getting engineering in the media is important, and pleasingly across the NCE100 firms 1,010 appearances were made in the national media last year. A further 1,690 staff made local media appearances and 7,628 appeared in trade media. 

Through its exceptional engineers, highly commended WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff shows leadership here. Notably director Rachel Skinner who has carried out multiple interviews promoting the image of the civil engineering industry.

Having dedicated almost five years as President of the Women’s Transportation Seminar and now elected as vice president of the ICE, she has appeared in videos discussing the Autumn Statement, women in engineering and autonomous vehicles. Most recently, she represented the company on ICE Talks, discussing the opportunities that are now available to explain the engineering industry in a more accessible way.

Talent Champion Award Winner: Costain

costain talent

Costain targets 14 universities as it seeks to recruit 100 graduates each year. It supports graduates’ efforts to achieve professional chartership within five years. 

Over the last 12 months it has had a 100% pass rate. As well as giving financial support, the contractor exposes them to challenging projects and mentoring by experienced technical experts.

Meanwhile Costain’s apprentice programme focuses on progression from level 3 through to degree achievement. All apprentices register with EngTech on completion of level 3 studies to gain technician status and develop through CPD.

Its talent reviews enable leaders to use processes and tools to discuss the strengths, development needs, career moves and plans for their teams. This provides a forum, timeslot and structure to conduct a talent inventory, which raises the visibility of high potential employees, identifies positions with missing successors and plans for future leadership needs. Find My Future is a tool that provides career focus to an individual’s development and promotes exploration of all the varied careers within and outside Costain.  

In 2015, Costain invested £3.9M in learning and development. It delivered 15,000 training days and promoted more than 430 employees – more than 10% of its workforce). It transferred over 800 employees between sectors and from operations to function roles (around 20% of employees provided with the opportunity to develop their skills and capabilities). Costain also launched a new project to find tomorrow’s leaders. 

The NCE100 judges commended Costain’s holistic approach to talent development. Of particular note was its commitment to apprentice, technician and graduate development. The judges were also impressed by the talent development process, succession planning and the importance placed on returnships.

Highly commended

Peter Brett Associates


Bam Nuttall 

BWB Consulting


JBA Consulting


Opus International



Contribution to the profession award winner: Mott MacDonald

mott talent

Mott MacDonald is partnered with an innovative organisation called Class of Your Own, which aims to deliver a full curriculum to develop digital and professional skills and career paths for the construction industry. 

The consultant was the first company to offer financial support and the first to sign up as a school adopter. The Adopt a School scheme has been developed to address the serious shortage of young talent in the built environment. The aim of the initiative is to engage children, change teachers’ and parents’ perceptions and provide clear pathways to careers as construction professionals. Staff from Class of Your Own adopters go into the classroom alongside the teacher, provide work experience for the teacher and challenge students’ thinking as part of the new Design, Engineer, Construct Level 1, 2 and 3 qualification, developed by Coyo with support from Mott MacDonald. 

Mott MacDonald has nearly 230 science, technology engineering and maths (STEM) ambassadors who enthusiastically encourage young people to enjoy STEM subjects. Mott MacDonald’s STEM ambassadors work with schools in their local community and use their knowledge and skills to demonstrate the opportunities which come from pursuing STEM subjects and careers. This is done by giving students exciting, interactive and challenging tasks during lessons, at after school evenings and at careers fairs.

The NCE100 judges said Mott MacDonald’s “vital” backing to the Class of Your Own initiative pushed it just ahead of WSP  Parsons Brinckerhoff, which gets a high commendation. The judges said both firms showed “superb” work in communities and engaging with schools with both firms demonstrating a culture encourages  promotion of the industry. 

Highly commended

WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff


Bam Nuttall



Pell Frischmann


Volker Wessels

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.