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Mark Thurston, CEO of HS2, delivers guest lecture at UEL

Students told about the huge demand for skilled graduates in the engineering and construction sector

The Chief Executive of Europe’s biggest infrastructure project delivered an inspiring presentation on the exciting career opportunities in the engineering and construction sector to students and graduates at the University of East London (UEL).

Mark Thurston (pictured left), CEO of High Speed Two (HS2), also highlighted the skills supply challenge in engineering, and his plans to secure the people needed to move HS2 forward.

During his talk on Thursday, which coincided with National Apprenticeships Week, Mr Thurston drew attention to the demand in the engineering and construction industry for skilled graduates.

He said, “A recent piece of research argues that by 2024 we will need 124,000 engineers and technicians, and around 79,000 related roles.

“At the moment, there’s a shortage of around 37,000 to 59,000 skilled people, so we need to focus on employees and graduates developing new skills to keep up with technology, and correct the preconception that construction and engineering is low skilled and low paid.” 

HS2 is the new rail transport project that will link London, Birmingham, the Midlands, Leeds and Manchester. High-speed trains will significantly reduce travel times between these major cities and will stimulate the economy, jobs and infrastructure.

Mr Thurston, who began his career as a technician apprentice on the London Underground and trained as an electrical and electronics engineer, also praised the opportunities created by apprenticeships. 

He said, “Apprenticeships offer a fantastic job and academic study experience, and give employers more choice in terms of securing talented people. 

“HS2 took on its first cohort of 25 apprentices last year, across project management, transport planning, and commercial planning. The aim is for us have 2,000 apprentices who will help us create a ‘skills legacy’. 

His message was well received by UEL’s engineering students and graduates. The University provides a number of degree apprenticeships, including chartered manager, civil engineering, and digital technology.

This year, around 50 apprentices from major professional services, finance, and construction and engineering firms have been sent to UEL for their academic studies.

Professor Hassan Abdalla (pictured right), Pro-Vice Chancellor Dean of the College of Arts, Technology, and Innovation said, “I am grateful to Mark coming to UEL to speak to our students, staff, and alumni. 

“Engagement with leading industry employers is vital for UEL, so that our programmes are relevant to industry and our students have access to quality career opportunities.”