Skills shortage fears as jobs are slashed

Contractors are bracing themselves for a skills shortage in the water industry within the next six to 12 months. The early end to the AMP4 cycle and slow start to AMP5 by some water utilities has led to job losses among contractors and consultants.

Early research by British Water among its members suggests thousands of water industry jobs have been lost over the past five years. The ongoing research aims to highlight the “huge impact the regulatory cycle has had on resources”. There are fears that as more work filters down the supply chain pressure will be put on the skill base as companies take on more staff. There are concerns that companies will struggle to recruit staff because many people are not coming back into the water industry. One contractor that has secured several top-tier framework deals for AMP5, said: “We’ve had six months running at a loss with no projects, and have been losing people. We expect work to start coming through in six months’ time. “When work starts we’ll need to take people on, but the early signs are we’ll struggle as many are not coming back into the water industry.” One company added: “We expect to be busy in six to nine months, but are concerned where staff will come from as there is a lack of people.” A spokesman for Ofwat said: “[Water] companies need to own their investment programmes and how they best resource their operations to deliver their outputs and meet their obligations. In the last price review, we also set out initial assumptions on companies’ capital expenditure back in November 2008 to give them sufficient time to plan ahead for the 2010-15 period.” He said Ofwat is reviewing how it sets price limits in the future, and engage and involve all the key players in the sector in this process.

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