There will never be enough qualified civil engineers, it's time to look to other industries for help – New Civil Engineer

05 Nov, 2021 By Rob Horgan
The construction and infrastructure sector will never meet its labour needs by thinking solely in terms of a skills pipeline. That is one of several findings of the ICE’s Engineering Rebellion panel, set up to determine what the future of the industry will look like.
Instead of focussing solely on encouraging more people to take up engineering qualifications, the Engineering Rebellion panel urges the ICE to explore how it could work with other sectors to create a “skills reservoir” that could draw in talent from across age groups and economic sectors.
It adds that infrastructure projects of the future will rely on a wide range of skills – both traditional and non-traditional – and so instead of upskilling all civil engineers to be able to do everything, the industry should look to professionals outside of its usual talent pool, such as the gaming industry.
The report concludes: “Faced with cyclical skills crises in the sector, ICE could redouble its efforts to promote civil engineering in schools and colleges, particularly with women and people from minority ethnic groups
“However, Engineering Rebellion found that the construction and infrastructure industry will not meet its needs by thinking solely in terms of a ‘skills pipeline’, leading from people taking STEM subjects at school, through university and into graduate training schemes.
“ICE may wish to explore how it could work with […] many other stakeholders to realise the idea of a ‘skills reservoir’ that could draw in talent from across age groups and economic sectors.”
It continues: “Recruiters need to give less weight to the length of time a candidate has spent in the sector and be more open to bringing in skills from outside.
“If people from the gaming industry, for example, can bring their digital skills to infrastructure projects, it would be self-defeating to erect unnecessary barriers.”
The report adds that the ICE’s proposal to introduce a Chartered Infrastructure Engineer qualification “is a good example of this kind of thinking”.
Trustees recommended last year that changes are made to the Royal Charter and bylaws to introduce a protected title of Chartered Infrastructure Engineer.
They agreed that these changes would be put to a member ballot in 2021. However, after feedback from members, the vote has been postponed until early next year so that the topic can be debated and explored in more detail before a final vote is cast.
A recent ICE debate went through the pros and cons of introducing the new title with members given the opportunity to raise any concerns.
The report adds: “This is an opportunity, not a threat. […]Someone will still need to understand the physics and the maths. The industry will need people who are excited by the problem-solving at the start of new projects as well as the people who get their satisfaction from getting them over the line.
“These teams will have to be more diverse, drawing on the skills and experience of a much wider range of people from a broader set of backgrounds.
“Civil engineers who want to will have opportunities to lead, joining the dots between these disparate inputs to create solutions that are sustainable, flexible and do a much better job at meeting the needs of society.
“Our main message to ICE is therefore that it should focus on how the future civil engineer can thrive and collaborate as part of the infrastructure team.”
Engineering Rebellion chair Emma-Jane Houghton added: “Today’s civil engineers need to feel they can challenge the collective wisdom of recent decades and explore a much wider range of potential solutions.
“Faced with increasing complexity, they must think differently, collaborate more widely and master evolving technology to provide sustainable outcomes.”
She added: “Perhaps the priority for ICE is to prepare its members to thrive in the infrastructure team of the future and work out what it has to offer to every member of that team.”
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