Steves Blog

Are we facing a skills shortage?

30 June 2014

It’s inevitable: when the economy heats up, people start moving jobs and we all have to fight harder to hang onto our talent. But does that mean we are facing a skills shortage? One of the big challenges for our property and infrastructure clients right now is to understand what skills they have and what skills they will need: more of a skills management problem than a skills shortage one.

When it comes to resourcing a capital investment programme, organisations always face the dilemma of how to get the right mix of permanent employees and consultants. If their internal team is too large, they run the risk of being overstaffed, should funding be pulled or investment plans change and that means absorbing the cost of a standing army. If the core team is too lean, there’s a chance of becoming over-reliant on outside support and limited knowledge retention.

So what’s the right staff to consultant ratio? 50:50, 60:40, 80:20. Clients could make life a lot easier by taking a longer-term view of their programmes and one model which is doing just that, is the delivery partner arrangement which has been used for the London Olympics 2012, Crossrail, HS2 and more recently London Underground’s Joint Delivery Partner, where CPC is leading the partnership with LU’s Crossrail and Stations programme. This enables consultant companies which form a joint partnership with clients to bring a greater depth of capability, a wide range of skills, a stronger culture and the opportunity to take lessons learned from one phase to the next.

All that said, we are definitely facing a skills shortage in the longer-term. At the recent Government Construction Summit, Vince Cable MP said “We’ve had a real horror story over skills. The industry has lost 350,000 people, many of them highly skilled, many won’t come back”. Therefore, the need to attract the next generation of talent is more pressing than it has ever been.

We all need to do our bit, with work placements, apprenticeships, graduate training and leadership programmes. This requires long-term thinking and commitment from us – which would be so much easier if we had a clear vision of what our clients resourcing needs are in the future.

Read my analysis in ACE's Infrastructure Intelligence at:

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