A recruitment specialist has forecast that skilled white-collar construction experts contracting as Umbrella Company Employees and other professional freelancers will be amongst the principal beneficiaries of the £100 billion cash injection for infrastructure projects announced after the chancellor’s spending review.

The UK director of the specialist white-collar recruitment firm Project Resource, Andrew Szklarek, welcomed the initiative but warned of significant skills shortages, as many of the most experienced talent will retire in the next five years. Five years ago, he noted, many vacancies would have been filled by overseas professionals, but changes to immigration policy have ensured that this option is far less available now.

As a result, he predicts, hirers are likely to shift from permanent staff to contractors. He said: “If there is a shortage and rates are going up, people doing those jobs are going to cotton on pretty quick.”

Another recruiter, Ed Hoad – MD of Catalyst Executive Search – explained that white-collar professionals specialising in IT and infrastructure-building will be key staff for ensuring that the UK’s projects, which are due to begin in 2015, are realised; however, many have left the country in favour of big projects abroad, such as initiatives in South Africa, Doha and Australia. Unless they return quickly, the UK’s infrastructure ambitions will face a formidable skills shortfall.

Even so, the £100 billion investment – the lion’s share of which has been reserved for transport, energy and schools – has been warmly received by most IT, engineering and construction recruiters. The commercial director of built environment and engineering job board CareerStructure.com, Rob Searle, said that the green light for the HS2 rail link “will only enhance the industry’s optimism.”

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