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Early retirers get call-up to join 'grey army' of veterans

A 'GREY ARMY' of former construction managers is being assembled to help ease the industry's skills shortages.

Two new companies are recruiting managers who have either been made redundant or have taken early retirement.

Construction Cover, headed by Dudley Barrett, a senior industrial relations manger with Costain for 25 years, should be up and running within a few weeks.

Mr Barrett said: 'The industry reeks of ageism but it should realise that older people with their wealth of experience can play a vital role in easing the chronic shortage of managers.'

He said firms' fears about the cost of notice, holiday and sickness pay were the biggest barriers to recruiting older staff.

But short-term and temporary contracts offered by his company would ease these worries.

Another firm, Water Connections, offers services and advice to the water sector, drawing on the expertise of former managers, engineers and scientists.

Co-director Ian Ramsden, a former Anglian Water director, said water regulator Ofwat had squeezed water companies' charges and capital programmes, and the resulting cuts had created a pool of 'several thousand highly skilled people' who had either been laid off or who had taken early retirement.

He said: 'There is a huge reservoir of talent out there and most of them still want to work.'

The aim of Tyne & Wearbased Water Connections is to win advisory commissions at home and overseas.

Mr Ramsden said: 'For instance, we are hoping to work with civil engineers, helping them to commission water treatment plants and advising on the bidding process.

'We can also help firms to operate water treatment and sewage works and to manage water services.'

The company has recently won its first contract - to advise on a water services project in Hong Kong.