2 November 2011 – According to Queensland based AECOM managing director for water and infrastructure services Andrew Macleod there is a “desperate” need for skilled people across the entire engineering sector. Some of this is driven by the mining boom, but in his area, a significant part of the demand is driven by the massive reconstruction work after the Queensland floods and the Christchurch earthquake.

In the past 12 months Macleod has boosted his division by about 20 per cent to 800 employees and he intends to do the same again in the next 12 months, he told The Fifth Estate this week.

The most recent senior recruit has been US flood mitigation specialist Joe Chapman, who will be technical director of water resources in Australia and New Zealand.

The job is to assist with floodplain management and surface-water modelling.

Chapman has the track record. In the past 23 years he has worked in flood risk assessment, flood damage reduction measures and disaster management in crisis and recovery situations. Through his work for the US Federal Emergency Management Agency he has worked in areas such as the New Orleans after it was devastated by cyclone.

“With the flooding disaster in Queensland and the earthquake in Christchurch we took it up ourselves to bring out someone to speak and perhaps lead us on this path,” Macleod says.

An advantage of being part of a worldwide company that has more than 50,000 employees (4600 in Australia), is that you can tap into a fairly sizeable bank of resources, “and we do that”, Macleod says. The appointment of Chapman is an example.

The role is at a strategic level, especially in consultation with government authorities dealing with flood recovery and planning for future potential events.

“Joe has had a number of meetings with different authorities where he is able to bring [his experience] of the implementation of different policies and procedures through FEMA.”

There is plenty of work under way, says Macleod.

“We are helping with a lot of flood recovery. A lot of work is now where the damage is and on assessment of infrastructure,” Macleod says.

“There are projects kicking off now; real rectification work going on. A lot of the preliminary work has being done and we’re now getting stuck into rectification.”

Aecom has a number of related contracts dealing with this work over the next three years.

Coupled with the demand from the mining boom, there was significant demand for skilled people.

“We’re all looking for additional resources in Australia and New Zealand,” Macleod says.”It’s been that way for a couple of years. I don’t see any change in that.”

“There is a desperate need for resources.