IHE president concerned about skills gap

14/08/2014
Highways Reporters

The president of the Institute of Highway Engineers (IHE) has expressed concern about a potential skills gap in the industry.

Speaking in his president’s blog, John Nightingale (pictured) said: “Speak to any of the large institutions in the highway sector and they will probably tell you that there is a significant shortage of skilled and experienced engineers. As we climb out of recession we are beginning to pay the price for rounds of early retirements and redundancies coupled with an under investment in training, skills and recruitment and many employers are finding it difficult to attract new entrants of a sufficient calibre. It’s a natural state of affairs at this time in the economic cycle but is it actually a skills gap or in fact a salary gap?”

According to the Higher Education Funding Council, the numbers of students accepted onto science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) courses have been rising for a number of years with an estimated 98,000 joining courses in 2013/2014.

Nightingale adds: “Numerous sources suggest an average starting salary for graduates entering the engineering profession to be around £26,000 per annum, this is significantly lower than the highest sector average of £45,000 for investment banking and many other sectors which benefit from numerate problem solvers.

“There is a strong possibility that many top achieving engineering graduates (particularly in the London catchment area) are opting for other professions on completion of their course. Exacerbating the new recruitment problem may also be the significant changes made to immigration laws in 2012. Prior to this newly qualified foreign students could apply for a tier 1 post study work visa allowing them to remain in the UK typically for a year after graduating and look for work. Foreign students must now find a licensed sponsor before being given leave to remain.

“So, is the answer simply to increase graduate starting salaries? Well clearly the sector will find it difficult to match top-flight salaries, and any increase in starting salaries puts upward pressure on salaries for staff already employed, but market forces will inevitably force employers to either find more money or become creative in the way they recruit and retain.”

The IHE is offering a range of professional certificates and a new apprentice grade of membership (AppIHE).

“One initiative that may help to fill the gap is apprentice recruitment. Apprentices can make a significant contribution to a company and if supported (and paid) well can become a major asset,” notes Nightingale. “Many will become the engineers of the future. The IHE is well placed to support these initiatives, our portfolio of professional certificates are an excellent route to registration and recognising these opportunities the IHE is creating a new apprentice grade of membership (AppIHE). We want to help these new entrants flourish and remain in the engineering profession.

“That is not to say the problems will simply be solved by new recruits, we need to retain and develop our existing staff. One way of aiding retention and supporting existing staff would be a return to rewards for staff achieving professional registration. This can be an important tool for an employer to encourage staff development and tier salaries. From the registrants point of view we know that the process of going through registration makes you take a critical view of what you do and how you do it and successful registrants are more likely to stay in the sector. It’s not all about the money of course. Let’s hope the upturn in the economy restores some of the pay, conditions and development opportunities for all our members, the IHE will continue to play its part.”
Highways jobs

Senior Traffic Engineer

East Riding of Yorkshire Council
£32,029 - £34,788 per annum
Currently seeking an enthusiastic and experienced individual to manage our Traffic Team. East Riding of Yorkshire
Recuriter: East Riding of Yorkshire Council

Technician

Derbyshire County Council
£22,628 - £24,455 per annum
Two posts have become available in the Council's Highways Development Control Section Derbyshire
Recuriter: Derbyshire County Council

Head of Network Planning

Derbyshire County Council
£52,999 - £58,310 per annum
This is a key role at Derbyshire County Council that will lead the strategic and operational planning and management of... Matlock, Derbyshire
Recuriter: Derbyshire County Council

Senior Parking Manager

Brent Council
£55,638 - £58,779 p.a. inc.
As Senior Parking Manager, you will be responsible for the effective management of the Council’s Parking Services contract, and... Wembley, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Group Engineer (Highway Design)

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£39,782 to £43,757 plus £3,000 Market Rate Supplement
Are you an experienced engineer looking for an opportunity to improve the lives of the local people of... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Group Engineer (Highways Network and Asset Management)

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£39,782 to £43,757
Looking for a Group Engineer who already has... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Validation Officer

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth
£21,188 - £29,796
Are you looking for working arrangements that enhance your work-life balance? London (Greater)
Recuriter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Ugobus Driver (multiple positions)

Essex County Council
Up to £18938 per annum
Please note that we have permanent, fixed term and relief contract opportunities on a part time, job share and flexible working basis. The salary is u England, Essex, Chelmsford
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Principal Transport & Infrastructure Planning Officer

Essex County Council
£52000 - £57570.0 per annum
Please note this is a two year fixed term contract with a potential for extension, subject to budget and workload. Job purpose Calling all transport P England, Essex, Chelmsford
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Food Safety Environmental Health Officer

Camden London Borough Council
£36,630 to £42,490
Seeking a highly motivated and experienced Environmental Health Officer to join our busy Food Safety team. Camden, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council

Policy Planner

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth
£25,327 - £36,486 depending on skills and experience
We have an exciting opportunity within the Spatial and Transport Planning service for 2 x Policy Planner roles... London (Greater)
Recuriter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Highways Inspector

Cambridgeshire County Council
£19,554 - £23,836
Looking for candidates who have experience of highways maintenance and have a sound technical understanding of highways. Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Street Services Recruitment Day

Royal Borough of Greenwich
Competitive Salary
This role involves collecting residents and business wheelie bins and waste containers you will work as... Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Director of External Operations

Somerset West and Taunton Council
£100,000
Somerset West and Taunton Council has been through a transformation that puts customers at the heart of everything we do. Taunton, Somerset
Recuriter: Somerset West and Taunton Council

Highways on Fridays

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue
  • HIghways Awards shortlist revealed
  • Equity in transport
  • DMRB updates
View the latest issue

Latest Video