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Civil Engineering & Infrastructure Trends for 2021

  • by: Gary Taylor
  • On: 14, Dec 2020
4 min read

As we draw to the end of the year, businesses and communities around the world cross their fingers that vaccines will present a successful to the Covid-19 pandemic. Dominating 2020, the coronavirus has disrupted industries, companies and communities across the globe.

In the UK alone, unemployment rose to 4.8% and redundancies rose to record-high levels. Engineering businesses across specialisms bore the brunt of supply chain disruption and factory closures which saw project delays and contract cancellations. However, with Governments eager to invest in new initiatives and a new appetite for technology and transformation around the world, the sector looks set for an exciting 2021.

Here are four market predictions from VHR’s team of former Engineering professionals for the year ahead.

4 Predictions for Civil Engineering and Infrastructure in 2021

1. Reversal of the Engineering Skills Shortage


Prior to Covid-19, many businesses across the Engineering sector were suffering severe skills shortages. Companies had few opportunities to engage the next generation before they committed to GCSE subject choices, demand for apprentices was exceeding the popularity of apprenticeships and thousands of skilled technicians were approaching retirement with no junior employees to take up their roles. The variety of reasons behind the shortage meant that at the beginning of the year, 22% of Engineering and 42% of Aviation business leaders ranked a lack of technical staff as their most pressing challenge.

The redundancies of 2020 have dramatically changed the hiring landscape across sectors and geographies, however technical fields have the most to gain. Half of all employees this year have reconsidered their career path during the pandemic, and top of the list of career attractions are those which Engineering roles offer in abundance: flexibility, continuous learning and a sense of purpose. Facing a severe economic recession and record-high levels of competition for job security, housing and enjoyable lifestyles, young people are likely to look to practical career paths such as Engineering in the next few years. The pandemic has also revealed the importance of infrastructure and technology in the daily lives of individuals and communities, helping to raise awareness of technical careers like never before.

Looking for recruitment services? Find your next skilled technician.

2. Utilisation of Drones

Working from home has not only revolutionised the corporate world of offices and employees, but will play a core role in building and construction in the next year.

The construction industry is the fastest growing adopter of commercial drones, and for good reason: a birds-eye view of a site can only be achieved quickly and cost-effectively by remote technology, enabling contractors and project managers to receive invaluable information. Drones help building workers identify safety concerns, accurately assess necessary materials and both plan and respond to project requirements in real time.

With the timely bonus of facilitating social distancing requirements and aiding worker safety at low cost during the latent effects of the pandemic, remote technology will become increasingly popular in 2021.

3. Adapting to Social Distancing – Smaller Workplaces

As build specialists focus on finalising new homes ahead of deadlines for the Help to Buy scheme and temporary stamp duty holiday, next year will see a refocusing on the workplaces of the future. Remote working has proven successful for millions of former office workers who enjoy newfound work/life balance, productivity and time and money saved on commuting, and businesses reap their own benefits with cost savings on utilities and infrastructure. With only 12% of employees wanting to return to full-time office work, how can the working environment adapt to best suit those who use it?

As 72% of office workers report favouring a hybrid remote-office model moving forward, the office – and its required transport, retail and leisure facilities – will continue to be needed in the coming years. However, just 8% of business leaders say their workplace is spacious enough to accommodate full capacity even when social distancing. Office buildings will themselves be radically transformed to accommodate teamwork at a distance rather than side-by-side working. As employees will increasingly value the productivity of their time without distraction and the interaction of their colleagues when necessary for creativity, construction companies will see increasing requests to build and adapt existing structures that offer larger rooms for team brainstorming sessions, reduce meeting room capacity in favour of smaller pods for private concentration, and incorporate safety and hygiene as important priorities.

Employers will place more importance on digital infrastructure, with IT software, communication tools, project management and security needs prioritised by business leaders like never before. The new world of work will require rapid transformation in both the digital and physical environments, to protect employees and businesses in the short-erm and facilitate business communication and growth in the long-term.

4. Growth through Sustainability

Announced in August this year, the £1.3billion investment of the Green Homes Grant is intended to help the industry grow through:

  • Creating 85,000 jobs
  • Deliver 300 new projects
  • Reduce 65 million kgs of CO2 emissions
  • Build up to 45,000 homes.

Economics Director of Construction Projects Association (CPA), Noble Francis advises, ‘While government plans for a £2bn Green Homes Grant is welcomed news for the industry, the key will be in the delivery of this policy, ensuring it provides long-term, patient finance rather than being spent quickly and thoughtlessly.

While next year we anticipate construction output rising 18.0% overall, it is worth noting that this is compared with a low base of activity in 2020 and will still be 6.4% lower than pre-coronavirus levels. The delivery of major infrastructure projects will be crucial to growth in 2021, with activity on site less affected by social distancing and major projects like HS2 driving significant growth for the sector.’

Recruit for Your Next Civil Engineering & Infrastructure Project

Named the Best Construction & Engineering Staffing Agency in the Talint International Recruitment Awards), VHR provides business-critical workforces for leading Civil and Infrastructure companies. Find out more about our Civil Engineering recruitment services.

Read our 5 Ways to Ensure Business Continuity Following the Coronavirus Pandemic

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