Active Risk’s success in providing risk management capabilities to some of the world’s mega-projects, led us to research the plans for future infrastructure investments around the globe. There are hundreds of amazing projects planned, but time and again our searches also show evidence of shortages of the skilled workers needed to deliver these projects. With governments using investment in major infrastructure as one of the levers to kick start economies, the skills gap is only going to get wider.
Where are the skills shortages?
A recent report by Randstad*, which highlights skills shortages around the world, is supported by other national surveys and studies. The Ranstad study shows that, for example, in the UK the number of construction workers employed by 2050 is likely to be 66,800 short of the nation’s requirement, and for qualified engineers the gap is 36,800. For Canada the same report predicts growing shortages in manufacturing, automation, and energy and utility industries.
In South Africa the nation’s shortage of skills in construction and engineering is throwing into doubt the ability to deliver the government’s ambitious 15 year plan costing R4 trillion ($450 billion), which includes 18 strategic integrated projects covering rail, road, ports, dams, irrigation systems, sanitation and energy.
At the time when the UK government is planning major investments in nuclear energy, the Institute of Engineering & Technology points out that 70 per cent of the UK’s current nuclear energy workforce will have retired by 2025. Similarly a study by the UK’s National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering (NSARE) identifies that the success of the UK’s 200 major rail projects planned for the next seven years and worth over £25 billion, is at risk because the rail industry will face growing difficulty recruiting suitably qualified and experienced staff. A particular concern is the age profile of people working in traction and rolling stock, with significant numbers already over 55, at a time when the demand for these skills will grow in the coming years.

Do you know the skill risks faced by your own organization?
An organization’s lack of understanding of the complete picture of the skilled workers it needs across all its projects and programs, is likely to be one of its greatest risks – though often this fact is hidden, locked in the multiple risk registers scattered throughout the business and its different projects.
An executive might have mild interest in news reports about national skills shortages, but feel that it doesn’t apply to their business, because each project or department is reporting that they’ve got it under control. But what if everyone has an identical mitigation plan? What if their solution is to hire the same people from the same finite resource pool?
Management needs a way to aggregate the skill risks from around the business, and its contractors and suppliers. Only when the overall picture is seen, can the most appropriate, cost-effective mitigation actions be put in place. Active Risk customer, Crossrail, set up a tunnelling academy to train the skilled personnel needed on their projects and also to benefit the industry as a whole. Similar innovative thinking will be needed on projects right around the world.
Do you know if you have a skills risk? What are you doing about it?

Let us know what you think by commenting below or via Twitter: @ActiveRisk
*Randstad’s latest Global Workmonitor – surveying employees in 32 countries around the world.

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