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Vote for world class engineers

How we can future-proof our profession.

In the run up to a General Election, our attention rightly turns to what has happened over the last five years, and what any future government should seek to achieve in the next five.

We are at a critical point; the scale of the UK’s infrastructure needs is large and growing, public finances remain tight and we are slowly emerging as an attractive market for investment. It is vital that we do not lose impetus.

As Chair of the Institution’s Capacity Building Panel, whichever party holds the keys to Number 10 come 7 May, naturally I would like to see it really up the ante when it comes securing a world class engineering workforce -one that can drive innovation and economic productivity.

While this is, in part, about equipping us with a pool of talent that stands us in good stead for the future - well beyond the likes of HS2 - it is also about upskilling our current workforce to meet demand for upcoming capital and maintenance infrastructure projects.

But it’s not only down to government to bring about change. Indeed, now is a good time for us to reflect on ourselves - as individuals who must take hold of our own careers, as companies and as an industry - and the changes we need to make.

Creating a workforce that is adaptable, remains relevant and engaged, and is equipped with today’s business critical skills is no easy task, however. It is also difficult to know which training and reskilling to invest in. The ICE must play its role here, equipping members with the capabilities they need through timely and world class knowledge, and a big part of this lies in sharing and harnessing the experience and best practice of others across the profession.

I am currently working with the Capacity Building Panel to produce a short report to be launched at ICE’s special one-day conference on skills later this month. The event will hear from Crossrail - a project with a peak workforce of 14,000 split between the client organisation, contractors, supply chain and sub-contractors - on how it developed a unified talent management strategy to put them on track for delivery.

Thames Tideway Tunnel CEO Andy Mitchell will share his thoughts on how leadership and innovation in the workplace can improve infrastructure delivery, and things he wishes he’d known right from the start of his career.

And London Underground will discuss the importance of a long-term programme integrating many key skills, and why everybody in the team should understand the ‘bigger picture’ and what they are each helping to achieve.

Many other organisations, such as Laing O’Rourke, the Environment Agency, the Chartered Institute of Professional Development and the National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering, will also be sharing experiences on a range of areas.

These include recognising transferable skills, identifying a skills gap and making sure it’s not actually an engagement gap, right through to utilising generational ­diversity.

The conference is being held at One Great George Street on 21 April, and you can find out more at

  • Professor Denise Bower is chair of the ICE’s capacity building panel

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