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Engineering contractors to the rescue in the public sector

Matthew Brown, managing director at giant group

Public sector engineering is certainly becoming a hot topic of conversation within the contract space, not least because it is suffering from widespread skills shortages. In fact, a report from the Royal Academy of Engineering revealed that 100,000 new science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates would be needed every year leading up to 2020 just to maintain current hiring levels.

The UK, however, produces around 90,000 STEM graduates every year and it’s almost a certainty that a percentage of these will choose employment in other sectors.  Clearly then, the engineering industry has a massive gap in supply and demand of talent – a hole that contractors will naturally fill.

What is interesting to note is that the public sector is using a large number of these interim experts despite the significant financial pressures it faces. The driver behind this, aside from the obvious skills gap issue, is the need for specialist experts to control a vast array of planned ventures across the country. For example, within infrastructure alone there are 106 developments in consideration across the UK at the moment. Not to mention large scale projects such as the High Speed 2 rail link which is moving closer towards the construction phase. The sheer number of the schemes underway in the UK have put pressure on the public sector to bring in specialist knowledge to ensure these are carried through to completion with little disruption.

Indeed, this demand for expert professionals was evident in our recent survey of engineering contractors, which showed a notable rise in contracting opportunities within the public sector. As the trend looks set the continue over the next 12 months, the analysis highlights the public sector is quite simply unable – and unequipped – to cope with demand. As such, it is increasingly relying on contract professionals to push planned engineering works and maintenance programmes to completion.

As the UK Government continues to face calls to strengthen its commitment to renewable energy sources, it is likely that we’ll see demand for specialist contract skills continue to grow. The future for engineering contractors, therefore, is certainly looking bright!

Are you an engineering contractor? Where are you expecting to see the most opportunities this year?

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