NEWS / Blog / WSP urges industry to commit to developing talent


08 JUL 2020


“It is a balancing act when re-shaping a business in times of crisis, but we must think about the future too.”

Mark Naysmith, chief executive of WSP in the UK and chair of ACE’s skills group, has penned an open letter urging his peers to make a commitment to developing talent and maintaining a future pipeline of skills.

Dear ACE Member,

As industry and business leaders we’re navigating our way through complex situations on an almost daily basis, and with more challenging times ahead, critical decisions are being made to protect the sectors we work in.

I welcome the recent announcement from our Prime Minister promising to accelerate “shovel ready” projects to help provide fiscal stimulus to a fragile economy. However, the path ahead remains unprecedented.

I also welcome the Chancellor’s announcements today where he made some interesting moves on supporting young and emerging professionals, notably through the job retention bonus, the apprenticeship bonus, grants for traineeships and the kick-start scheme which will provide high-quality job placements for 16-24 year olds.

I am also delighted that through the CLC’s Construction Talent Retention Scheme – which ACE played a key role in shaping – we will be given every opportunity to retain the skills and experience within our sector, especially from early career professionals. This is something which, as chair of the ACE’s skills group, I also want to highlight at this crucial time.

The business decisions taken now will set our industry up for success when we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic downturn. ACE has long championed initiatives supporting skills, apprenticeships and early career professionals, like the Talent Retention Scheme, because bringing through emerging talent is essential for long-term prosperity and our ability to deliver projects to our multi-sector clients.

Now, more than ever, we need the diversity of thought, skills and knowledge from the early career professionals, and we must continue to support those who want to enter the profession after studying. It is a balancing act when re-shaping a business in times of crisis, but we must think about the future too.

The opportunities that are coming through, for example the net zero agenda, should be underpinned by the emerging generation as this is a task that will span a lifetime. We should take every opportunity to seek and nurture talent from within our own industry, as well as taking advantage of adjacent sectors where talent exists and could fill skills gaps with the right commitment to training. We should also be conscious of the contribution the younger generation make to the application of digital in the workplace, and embrace this as one of the critical skills for the future.

As members we welcome new graduates into our organisations annually, encourage apprenticeship applications and set up initiatives so our early career professionals can thrive in the workplace. Skills and capability will always be on the agenda, but even more so in the turbulent times when tough decisions have to be made. If all members make a commitment to developing the talent we have, and maintaining the future pipeline, as a membership body we will ensure skills gaps are continually addressed. 

Please consider all of the above when making these difficult decisions in the months ahead. Our collective contribution will help to make the future more sustainable.

Thank you,

Mark Naysmith
Chief Executive, WSP in the UK.

Find out more about the Construction Leadership Council’s Talent Retention Scheme and discover how your business can get involved. This letter also appeared in Infrastructure Intelligence.

Mark Naysmith

Mark Naysmith

UK Chief Executive Officer

Mark is chair of the ACE skills group.