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Rebuilding Britain: How civil engineering is playing its part to strengthen the nation's economy

01 Oct 2020
Posted by: Luke Hough
Shortly after the turn of the decade, the world was thrown into a state of disorder, and uncertainty and unprecedented become synonymous with coronavirus. However, before the outbreak, the construction industry accounted for 6% of the nation’s GDP and this has led many to question whether the UK can build its way out of a recession. The Chancellor of Exchequer – Rishi Sunak – stated, ‘If the country needs it, we will build it’, but as the nation slowly resumes activity, engineering and construction companies are faced with the challenge of getting enough experienced workers on-site and meeting the rising demand. 

Here’s how civil engineering is playing its part to strengthen the nation’s economy: 

A resilient industry 

According to recent data, engineering and construction boasted the biggest jump in job vacancies in the early months of the pandemic, boosting 16% and 10% respectively in just one week. These employees were some of the first to be welcomed back to work and among them were civil engineers - those responsible for the designing, construction and maintenance of roads, bridges, canals, sewers and railways. 

As most other industries hit pause on their hiring activities, the engineering sector showed a determined effort to climb back to pre-Covid levels and help tackle the skills gap. In response to this growing gap, 31% of employers revealed they’ve increased the number of employees in their engineering and technology teams, resulting in a 3% drop in their internal skills gap in just two years. 

Ongoing projects 

Some of the top civil engineering and construction projects currently underway in the UK are HS2, Crossrail, Thames Tideway and the Smart Motorway scheme. Many more projects like these were disrupted due to Covid-19 restrictions yet, as early as May, 86% of construction sites were operational in the UK, leaving a small proportion still hammering out the logistics. Now, with the majority of construction moving full steam ahead, there appears to be light at the end of the partially built tunnels. This is great news for the contract managers, operations managers and other civil engineering employees overseeing the projects. 

Providing vital repairs 

Aside from the large-scale projects that are picking back up post-Covid, there are smaller jobs that have yet to be started and can’t be postponed. One example is the Union Chain Bridge, a 200-year-old structure connecting England and Scotland. The popular tourist attraction needs rebuilding and strengthening, a 16-month project that requires the expertise of many civil engineers in order to give the bridge another 200 years’ service whilst using original materials and preserving the historical features. 


The Union Chain Bridge is just one of the many reparation projects that inevitably arise over the year and together they provide a steady stream of work for civil engineering companies. Though a 6.2% drop in new projects was noted in March, the industry is fighting back and planners, quantity surveyors and design managers can look forward to a busy period ahead. 

Housing projects 

Housing projects create thousands of jobs for UK employees and just last year the number of new builds hit an 11-year high at 170,000 - representing an 8% increase on the previous year. Areas of England such as the North East – home to one of the fastest growing cities in Europe – are unsurprisingly boosting workforce numbers but with new developments starting each year, job opportunities for estimators, project managers and site engineers are springing up all around the country. This may partially explain why of all the engineering disciplines, those who studied civil engineering were most likely to secure an engineering job following their studies. 

Rebuilding sustainably 

The past several years have seen a slow but constant shift towards sustainable engineering – one of the top civil engineering trends – and 2020 was pegged to be the year for sustainable construction. However, with most of the UK workforce asked to work from home, companies refocused their efforts towards supporting a remote team and maintaining operational stability, causing concern that green building initiatives would be put on the back burner. Instead, the shakeup has allowed companies to take a step back and find a new and agile way of working and civil engineering professionals can more readily build sustainability goals into their plans and designs. 

Join us on our mission to help rebuild Britain 

PSR Solutions is a leading civil engineering recruitment agency and our team of specialist consultants recruit for a wide range of sectors, including Highways, Tunnelling, Environmental and Groundworks. We’ll use our in-depth market knowledge and strong links within the construction industry to find you a job where you can have a positive impact and be a key player in the rebuilding of Britain. Browse our latest jobs in civil engineering or read our tips for working with a recruiter

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