COSTAIN has taken on 20 engineers from South Africa after a 10-day summer recruitment drive in the country.
The first engineers arrive at the beginning of next month with the remainder due to land by October.
Chief executive Stuart Doughty pledged to increase staff numbers by 400 within two years when he took over in 2001 and admitted the firm would have to go overseas to reach this figure.
Costain recruitment and retention manager Jeremy Galpin said: 'The prime motivation of South Africans when they come here is to expand their work experience.'
The team interviewed 130 people in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban and so far 10 have received permits to work in the UK.
The engineers have mainly been recruited for Costain's £215 million water asset management contract which it is carrying out with Galliford Try for United Utilities in the northwest. Galliford Try has added five South African engineers to its payroll.
Mr Galpin said Costain was planning to return to South Africa next year.
He added that Costain was also looking to trawl India for engineers. The country has been raided several times by British firms working in the rail sector.