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Tackling the ground engineering skills shortage

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Amber Rudd visit (3)Member of Parliament for Hastings and Rye, Amber Rudd, has heard how people in the south east are missing out on crucial training that could boost the local economy and provide more jobs to the area.

Rudd has met with senior staff at Sussex-based geotechnical specialist Lankelma, to discuss the skills shortage in the ground engineering industry and the lack of funding available to students wishing to study for a specialist qualification.

Lankelma carries out site investigation work for construction and infrastructure projects. The company, which employs 50 staff, was established in Iden in 1999 and since then has expanded to work throughout the UK and Ireland, as well as overseas.

“Ground engineering has been on the Home Office shortage occupation list since 2004 and with an upsurge in work, for the time being this seems unlikely to change, as there is still a shortage of qualified geotechnical specialists,” explained Eric Zon, Managing Director of Lankelma.

“The main challenge for young people is that most careers in ground engineering require two degrees, with a general degree in either geology or civil engineering, followed by a Masters degree specialising in soil mechanics.

“As student loans don’t cover a second degree, often graduates are not able financially to study for a Masters qualification. This means they don’t have a specialism that could potentially open up a rewarding career path in ground engineering.”

Amber Rudd met with Lankelma’s Engineering Director Carlton Hall, Operations Director Ben Magee and Business Development Director Andy Barwise. She said: “This is a very impressive company which is training-friendly and making a significant contribution in an important and fast-developing area. It is exciting to think such an innovative enterprise is flourishing so well in this beautiful rural location.

“I will be speaking to David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science, about the lack of funding for second engineering degrees. I hope that by raising awareness, we can give graduates from the local area and the rest of the country the help they need to study for a further degree to enable them to pursue a career in ground engineering.”

Zon added: “Recently we have major investments in staff and equipment capable of working in ports and harbours. About 70% of our turnover is overseas, particularly in West Africa and South America. Workload has steadily increased in the past year, despite the recession, and we are actively recruiting and training staff to meet this need but it is difficult to find qualified people.”