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Costain: 'Time to build new engineering talent pool'

Duke of Edinburgh visits Crossrail construction project Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Projects like Crossrail, HS2, new roads and housing all require engineers

The UK is promised new roads, railways and runways, but we will need more engineers to build them, say experts.

A report, from the Institution of Civil Engineers and construction giant, Costain, is calling for a "recruitment revolution" to avoid a skills gap.

It says the solution is to attract a new wave of engineers, including ex-military personnel and young offenders.

"New blood" could also come from among data scientists, social scientists and planners, it suggests.

In the report, Skills: Meeting Demand, Costain and the New Civil Engineer, the magazine of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), argue the government's new investment in infrastructure provides an opportunity to expand the UK's engineering talent base.

"We can meet any challenge thrown at us but in order to do so we need to think laterally about how, who and where we recruit," says Darren James, Infrastructure Managing Director at Costain.

"This could be transformative for the industry," he said.

Image copyright Getty Images

Currently around a third of the UK's 3,000 civil engineering students don't go on to become civil engineers after graduating, according to ICE, and this "lost third" represents a potential untapped pool of talent.

Only 15% of engineering graduates are female, presenting another opportunity to increase the numbers attracted to the profession. The report also suggests that former soldiers may have suitable skills and might consider a career in civil engineering, following reductions in the size of the UK army.

"We have a unique opportunity to future-proof the availability of talent with the diverse skills required to deliver them," added Mr James.

Investment in infrastructure is expected to form a key element of the Autumn Statement on Wednesday.

But the government has already announced £1.3bn of spending on road improvements and £1bn for broadband on top of pushing ahead with HS2, Hinkley Point and a third runway at Heathrow.

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