Skills Shortages: lessons from the recent past

I can recommend the BBC Programme which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the opening of The Severn Bridge (‘The Severn Bridge at 50: A High Wire Act’). You can find it on BBC iPlayer here –

I particularly liked the contribution from Michael Parson (around 05.58 minutes): As a new civil engineer, fresh out of Bristol University, “I was in charge (it’s a job to imagine it nowadays) of writing the specification for the new bridge. I was the only one working on it.”

I think this experience has lessons for us in 2016, when we are hearing warnings about skills shortages in the UK’s infrastructure and construction industries, which will delay or prevent the delivery of many large projects and programmes which the UK needs to deliver.

Instead of looking for people with exactly the ‘right’ experience; and moaning when we can’t find them, we need to give opportunities and responsibilities to young, newly qualified engineers (or indeed older workers with different experiences). This is what we had to do at a time when resources were still scarce in post-war Britain, and as we can see from The Severn Bridge a good job was done.

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