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Recruitment: interim specialists are in demand

An increase in the demand for specialist interim staff has created opportunities for suitably qualified engineers, according to Hays Civil & Structural director Greg Lettington

Consultants are increasingly turning to interims to fill their skills gaps. These senior level, experienced professionals can provide specialist expertise to an organisation during times of change or restructuring, and are typically called upon, sometimes at short notice, to manage challenging projects or assignments that are finite and for which the skills do not already exist in-house.

Interims have a demonstrable track record of adding value and delivering on time and to budget, making them a cost and time effective proposition.

When it comes to appointing interims, employers are looking for people who not only have solid experience in their particular field, but can also demonstrate a track record in generating business, have an established client base and an extensive network of contacts. As well as possessing the relevant chartered qualifications and specialist experience, they must also demonstrate strong leadership and management skills.

They also need to be able to implement a strategy that targets the wider marketplace, and use their experience to bid for – and win – more work for their consultancy.

Exposure to a variety of projects means that interims have the experience and the skills to meet these requirements and manage a variety of projects effectively. Employers welcome the fresh perspective they bring to each assignment, often at short notice. 

The advantages of hiring an interim are not limited to their cost-effectiveness. Their flexibility and strategic experience make them a prized asset to organisations. Strong technical skills aligned to robust leadership skills mean senior interims can communicate with internal and external stakeholders alike, bring momentum to the job and see a project through from inception to final delivery. Flexibility and adaptability are key ingredients to ensuring success, and interims are flexible in terms of location and project duration, can cope with different scenarios and are quick to fit in to a company’s culture.  

The requirement for interims spans the disciplines, from bridge and senior highway design engineers and senior mechanical and electrical engineers working in building services to those working on environmental or geotechnical projects. Demand for rail, signal and electrification engineers is also buoyant, and land drainage engineers have seen their stock rise, with the recommendations from the Pitt Review leading to an increased number of interim roles. There is also a shortage of industry simulation and traffic modelling specialists, and knowledge of industry software, such as Vissim, Saturn and Transyt, is highly sought after by employers.

In the current climate, senior level professionals are less inclined to move from one company to another. Job security is a major consideration, and senior engineers do not want to jeopardise their positions by moving at a time when there is a risk of redundancy. However, flexibility is important in the current marketplace, and both employers and employees need to maximise the potential of transferable skills to help meet the prevailing skills shortages.

The number of professionals making a career out of interim work has grown remarkably in recent years, giving them added flexibility and work-life balance benefits. Opportunities exist for high-calibre senior managers, especially in the public sector where local authorities are keen to buy in the skills they don’t already possess and hire experienced individuals who can see a project through.

While engineering recruitment has slowed in some sectors as the result of the economic downturn, investment in the UK’s infrastructure continues to bolster demand for specialist skills, especially for interim civil engineers. Organisations are increasingly turning to these individuals, who will bring credibility and influence to bear in winning new work. The fact that interims are client-facing and have leadership experience generates new business, which directly impacts the bottom line.

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