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Water Industry Experts Address the Engineering Skills Gap

Water Industry Experts Address the Engineering Skills Gap

View all news from: Matchtech
View directory entry for: Matchtech

25 July 2016

Experts from the water and environment engineering sector recently gathered at the CIWEM offices in London to discuss the results of a survey conducted by Matchtech and CIWEM, which highlighted the significant skills shortage in the industry.

The survey showed there is widespread concern for the future of the water industry, with 81% of employers seeing increased turnover and 70% saying that this has resulted in a reduced ability to finish projects.

Discussions at the roundtable event focused on finding solutions to fill the skills gap by improving the gender disparity and the increasing opportunity for international movement of engineers around the world and Europe.
As a result of the meeting the group agreed upon the below recommendations for reducing the current skills gap:

•    Encouraging engineers to build multiple skill sets: Engineers with multiple skill sets are beneficial across projects. The water sector must encourage the development of generalists. The industry should make it easier for engineers to move around their companies and, similar to graduates, gain experience in a variety of areas.
•    Re-address the balance of technical engineers and project managers: Develop technically-focused career paths to balance the number of engineers who progress towards management with those who advance technically. In doing so, review the salary, benefits and perceived status of a technical career, compared to project management.
•    Provide clearer career and development plans: Provide employees with clear paths that account for aspirations and priorities at different stages of life. Employers should provide continuing professional development (CPD) post Chartership and holistic, transparent communications regarding next career steps.
•    Raise the profile of the water sector: Communicate to engineers why a career in water is worth pursuing to reignite people’s passion for the sector. As Terry Fuller, CIWEM CEO, explained, the industry is "not explaining why water is great”. The sector must collaborate to instil a sense of purpose and value for water engineering.
•    Influence Government: The industry must highlight where Government can support to address skills shortages. Projects need to be able to access the best global talent to plug the gaps and an enquiry about the non-inclusion of water and environment on the Tier 2 Skills Shortage list was recommended.

Speaking after the event, Stuart Minchin, Water and Environment Divisional Manager at Matchtech, commented: "Our research of water engineers showed there is a real concern for the UK’s ability to finish water engineering projects, based on the current skills level. Convening this meeting with CIWEM has helped us get a better understanding of the issues our engineers are facing, but also given us a great opportunity to share the concerns of our water engineers with heads of industry. As a result of this meeting, we have some very clear and actionable recommendations, which we believe will go some way to solving the skills issues the UK has.”

Terry Fuller, CEO at CIWEM, was optimistic about the outcome and said: "I think we have drawn together a number of realistic but robust recommendations for addressing the skills gap in our sector. I hope that we continue to gather as industry professionals to discuss these important issues and help solve the challenges of the future.”