Off Island

A Post-Brexit Talent Gap Could Threaten U.K. Public-Sector Infrastructure Projects

 
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Millennium Bridge over the River Thames in London, England

PHOTO BY STUART C. WILSON/GETTY IMAGES

A talent storm's brewing. Around 1 million European Union citizens currently working in the United Kingdom might move elsewhere because of Brexit—shrinking the national workforce by more than 3 percent, according to a 2017 KPMG survey. That doesn't bode well for the country's crowded pipeline of infrastructure projects and programs. An estimated £600 billion worth of such public- and private-sector projects are planned for the U.K. through 2027, according to a government report.

But with the right talent harder to come by, public-sector project leaders could end up scrambling to compete for fewer qualified candidates, according to a recent EY report. That could delay schedules and raise salary expectations, pushing up project costs. East of England will be particularly impacted, as the region already faces a project management skills gap, with five times more roles available than the labor to fill them, EY reports.

Around
1 million
European Union citizens currently working in the U.K. might move elsewhere because of Brexit—shrinking the national workforce by more than
3 percent.

Source: KPMG

“We've never seen such an increase in demand for project management, commercial and financial skills across infrastructure and government at the same time,” Joe Stringer, partner, government and public sector, EY, said in the report. “Decision makers … need to think creatively and embrace better ways of working to ensure that they can deliver projects in a way that provides value for money.”

An agile mindset will help. Organizations should be communicative and flexible about sharing resources across programs, the EY report suggests. It also notes that the shifting labor market may be an ideal time for organizations to rethink traditional employment contracts and overhaul how they approach recruitment for project management practitioners. “It will take time to implement the necessary changes, so it is vital to act now to mitigate the potential impact,” Mr. Stringer said. —Kate Rockwood

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