A careers advice system that links employer demand with training provision is needed to address a looming skills shortage in the infrastructure construction industry, according to a new report by the Civil Engineering Contractors Association North West.
CECA North West launched its policy document at an event with Louise Ellmann MP, chairman of the Transport Select Committee, held at Liverpool Chamber of Commerce.
Infrastructure: The Routemap for Regional Growth sets out a list of priorities, identified by the region's leading civil engineering contractors, with the greatest potential for delivering sustainable economic growth to the North West.
CECA North West member companies have an estimated turnover of £2.2bn and employ 19,200 people in the region.
Members addressing the meeting said project managers and contract managers were in short supply. The problem was exacerbated by the public sector procurement system which favoured the largest contractors, who tended not to train as many staff as smaller subcontractors, Howard Chamberlain, managing director of Bury-based Cheetham Hill Construction, said.
CECA North West recommends increased funding, perhaps from the levy contractors pay to the Construction Industry Training Board, to gather data about employers' needs, to improve the supply of new workers from trainers and universities.
Joe Fitzgibbon, chairman of CECA North West and managing director of Centum Construction Services, said: "Civil engineering is very much the weather vane of the economy, and our members are ideally placed to identify those measures that will make a difference to the economic wellbeing of the North West. There is no doubt that investment in the region's infrastructure has the potential to achieve the greatest benefits for the North West, and needs to be targeted at rail, roads, utilities, energy and waste."
CECA says for each £1 increase in infrastructure investment, UK-wide GDP increases by a total of £1.30, and every £1 of infrastructure construction increases overall economic activity by £2.84. For every 1,000 jobs created in infrastructure construction employment as a whole rises by 3,050 jobs, the organisation adds.
Louise Ellman, Labour member for Liverpool Riverside, added: "Investment in infrastructure is essential for the economy of the North West. I particularly welcome proposals to support the Atlantic Gateway, linking Mersey Gateway Bridge with Liverpool John Lennon Airport. This will provide a major focus for growth across the region."