“Think about the future,” says WSP boss

"It is a balancing act when reshaping a business in times of crisis, but we must think about the future too,” says WSP's Mark Naysmith.

WSP UK chief executive Mark Naysmith has penned an open letter to members of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE), urging its firms to make a commitment to developing talent and maintaining a future pipeline of skills.

Naysmith, who also chairs the ACE’s skills group, wrote his missive to consultancy and engineering firms in the wake of the prime minister and chancellor’s economic announcements and in it he makes an impassioned plea for his peers to think about the future and look to retain their talent as they prepare to make difficult decisions in the weeks and months ahead.

“As industry and business leaders we’re navigating our way through complex situations on an almost daily basis and with more challenging times ahead, critical decisions are being made to protect the sectors we work in,” Naysmith writes. Notwithstanding the recent positive announcements made by Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak, which Naysmith welcomes, he recognised that “the path ahead remains unprecedented”. 

He particularly praises the setting up of the CLC’s Construction Talent Retention Scheme and the key role played by ACE in shaping it, as something which will give the sector every opportunity to retain its skills and experience, especially from early career professionals. 

“The business decisions taken now will set our industry up for success when we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic and the associated economic downturn,” Naysmith says. “Now, more than ever, we need the diversity of thought, skills and knowledge from the early career professionals and we must continue to support those who want to enter the profession after studying. It is a balancing act when reshaping a business in times of crisis, but we must think about the future too,” he said.

Naysmith said that it was crucial that future opportunities like the net zero agenda be underpinned by the emerging generation as this was a task that will span a lifetime. “We should take every opportunity to seek and nurture talent from within our own industry, as well as taking advantage of adjacent sectors where talent exists and could fill skills gaps with the right commitment to training,” he said. “We should also be conscious of the contribution the younger generation make to the application of digital in the workplace and embrace this as one of the critical skills for the future,” said Naysmith.

Concluding his letter to ACE member firms, Naysmith addressed the skills issue directly. “Skills and capability will always be on the agenda, but even more so in the turbulent times when tough decisions have to be made. If all members make a commitment to developing the talent we have and maintaining the future pipeline, as a membership body we will ensure skills gaps are continually addressed.  

“Please consider all of the above when making these difficult decisions in the months ahead. Our collective contribution will help to make the future more sustainable,” he concluded.

Click here to view the full text of Mark Naysmith’s letter to ACE members.

Mark Naysmith is speaking at our webinar, "Post-Covid - the skills challenge for construction".

If you would like to contact Andy Walker about this, or any other story, please email