“There’s no shortage of investment in civil infrastructure. Major projects and frameworks in progress include Transport Scotland's Forth Replacement Crossing, M8 Improvement Works & Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, Scottish Water's SR15 Programme, and Network Rail's Edinburgh-Glasgow Improvement Programme & AIR Link schemes.
We saw a number of new entrants to the Scottish market from other regions of the UK and the continent. So while there’s no shortage of work opportunities, the market remains highly competitive and profit margins for main contractors remain very low. This creates a challenging environment for main contractors looking to invest in skills for the future.
Main contractors are inclined to keep tight control on spending, with strict authorisation processes in place for even low-level recruitment. While this is understandable given market conditions, it slows down the hiring process which often sees main contractors out-manouever by SMEs who can move quickly on high-quality civil engineering staff. A balance needs to be struck between effective controls on spending and the ability to act fast enough to recruit staff who strengthen their team.
Demand within the main civil engineering contractors is primarily for operations / delivery and commercial staff (in fact commercial staff are frequently attracting job offers from multiple companies). The key for prospective employers is to provide an excellent working environment and invest in skills, development and good prospects for career progression. Businesses that offer a good work/life balance can also appear more attractive.
All main contractors are reporting significant challenges in attracting suitably qualified staff in the above disciplines. There’s a need to encourage diversity in the industry, looking at candidates from a wider range of background to bridge this gap.
It’s also essential to engage with schools and further education institutions to encourage more young people to consider a career in construction and make the appropriate choices in further education.”
“The major civil engineering sector across Scotland has continued to see steady growth throughout the first six months of 2016. There has been high recruitment activity throughout June, July and August due to the high work level on the major projects and we don't expect this to slow down until well into winter.
The current issues revolve around the staffing of major projects in the north of Scotland, where experience in major projects is desired. And given how busy site engineers are, there’s a noticeable lack of new talent emerging from the engineering division into management across the central belt.
We urge anyone who is considering a freelance career to get in touch to discuss the market conditions in civil engineering and the pros and cons of a freelance career. We offer a transparent and confidential opportunity to discuss rates, continuity issues and the type of work available.”
“Demand in the civil engineering SME sector is mainly for operations and delivery staff. Good site engineers, sub-agents and site agents are frequently attracting offers of employment from multiple companies. They’re looking for companies that provide a healthy working environment and invest in skills, meaning prospects for progression.
There’s still a shortage of commercial staff across the industry. So if you’re in an area where local skills aren’t available, it’s worth looking at EU candidates. Having assessed their ability to transfer to the UK construction sector, we’ve found EU candidates to be skilled, technically sound and loyal, with a strong work ethic. Civil engineering contractors who can recruit excellent staff to strengthen their team ahead of project awards position themselves more strongly with-in the market. It can be tricky to resource with a fluctuating workload, but a proactive approach will keep you ahead of the competition. You need to move quicker if you see someone you’re interested in, though, as candidates are finding jobs much faster. A significant amount of permanent vacancies within the civil engineering SME sector result in successful placement within 1-2 weeks of the first interview.”
“In the first six months of 2016, we saw a sharp 127% rise in vacancies (compared with 2015) for SME civil engineering contractors. However, the draw of major projects offers contractors longevity and competitive rates. So rather than compete head-on with deeper pockets, it’s worth considering candidates with transferable skills, and providing further incentives to attract the right people. That could mean a bonus strategy, or help with travel plans, for instance.
2016 will remain a competitive market for SME civil contractors due to essential infrastructure frameworks, continued investment in alternative energy and growth in publicly funded subcontract wins from the main building and civil engineering contractors.”
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