Civil engineering recruitment on a roll

Hiring for Success asked Civil Engineering sector head at PCS, Simon Maimane, for his take on trends in the recruitment market within the civil engineering sector.

One of the clear trends to emerge from our interview with Simon Maimane was the noticeable increase in recruitment demand in the civil engineering sector, driven in part by a surge in activity in Africa.

Q: There appears to be strong evidence of a lift in recruitment demand in the Civil Engineering sector. Is this your experience and, if so, what’s driving this?

Simon: Yes, there is a definite lift in recruitment demand, particularly from the consulting engineering firms as well as the civil contractors. Interestingly, a lot of this demand for engineering consulting candidates is coming from the smaller consulting firms, particularly the black-owned firms which seem to be winning a lot more work either through joint ventures or on their own.

Q: This seems to contradict the general impression created in the media that the South African engineering sector is struggling. How do you explain this?

Simon: Bear in mind that Civil Engineering firms are far more active in Africa than they were a few years back, so this is driving a lot of demand. Candidates, too, are more keen to work outside South Africa. That is not to say that activity in South Africa is particularly dismal. Sure, activity in the mining sector is depressed at the moment, but I believe this is cyclical and it will rebound. Elsewhere in the economy, there is a vast amount of activity in areas such as water projects and road building. Kwazulu Natal is particularly busy in this regard at the moment.

Q: Is there any truth in the assertion that demand for consulting engineers generally precedes an increase in demand from the Construction sectors?

Simon: Definitely. It’s true that demand for consulting engineers is considerably higher than it was a year ago, and in our experience what will follow is a lift in demand from Construction sectors. Consulting engineers are usually called in at the design stage of major building or infrastructure projects, so it seems inevitable that construction activity will pick up from here. Another trend we have noticed is that consulting engineering firms are becoming more diversified in their services. Previously, you would have firms specialising in very limited sectors; now they tend to offer  a wider spread of disciplines.

Q: Final question. Are you able to find suitably qualified candidates and how, at PCS, do you differentiate yourself from the competition?

Simon: There’s no magic to it. You just have to work harder to get the right candidates. That means working all possible channels, especially referrals, to get the right person for the job. We differentiate ourselves through the care we take in matching the right candidate to the job, and in the depth of our background checks. We don’t rely exclusively on the CV.