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CH2M Hill seeks to expand UK presence after Crossrail, HS2 and Olympic wins

CH2M Hill will consider bidding for design-and-build contracts in the UK as it seeks to expand its presence into new sectors including nuclear and shale gas.

The firm announced this month that it would create 500 new engineering jobs across the UK this year as part of a £65 million investment in UK employment.

CH2M Hill international division president Jacqueline Hinman told Construction News that the company will consider design-and-build contracts, as well as operation and maintenance and EPC deals in the UK, should clients require them to do so.

However, she insisted the firm does not want to “do an about-face and start competing with people who have been our partners” but would consider client needs on a project-by-project basis.

The firm has been hired as delivery partner for prestigious UK schemes including Crossrail, the Thames Tideway tunnel and High Speed 2, and was part of the CLM team along with Laing O’Rourke and Mace that helped to successfully deliver the London 2012 Olympics as delivery partner.

Ms Hinman said: “What we can bring in the UK is a much broader perspective and all of the markets that this company trades in are present in the UK.

“It would need to be where we felt we could add value, where the client would want it and we could figure out the right partnering and supply chain”

Jacqueline Hinman, CH2M Hill

“That’s why you’ll see us doing industrial facilities, transport, water, nuclear and environmental, all kinds of different things across the spectrum.

“We have to decide on that spectrum where the best value proposition for clients is when a certain project or commission comes up.

“The UK has such a great workforce and construction industry, it would need to be a place where we felt we could add value, where the client would want it and we could figure out the right partnering and supply chain to make that work.”

The group would consider bidding for O&M contracts in the UK, particularly for sectors including industrial facilities, water and wastewater schemes.

However, Ms Hinman insisted the move into design and build, or O&M work, would need to be driven by clients and that the company was still looking to partner with main contractors where the opportunities arose.

She said: “We would have to see a scheme where the clients requires something different, where it makes sense, versus all of a sudden [deciding] we want to change how we do business, because we are set up beautifully to do consultancy, design and programme management.”

Ms Hinman added that the group would avoid traditional design-and-build jobs where there is a “contracting and supply chain army” that is well placed to deliver schemes and where CH2M Hill would prefer to be programme manager or design and build partner.

But she added: “But moving forward and particularly in sectors like defence, some nuclear, maybe power, things that we are strong in but that are not a mature market in the UK right now, I think that is where we would probably look.

“But we don’t need to compete with [big UK contractors] like Balfour Beatty in their own back yard where they are probably better value to the government anyway.”

The company will look at new markets including shale gas and sees power, nuclear, water and transport as its main four growth areas in the UK.

Clients are specifically asking for staff who worked on the CLM Olympics team to work on new projects in the UK and internationally, Ms Hinman added, and those staff are working on projects as diverse as Crossrail and the 2016 Rio Olympics.

She said if there was a chance for the company to work on a joint bid with Mace and Laing O’Rourke again they would “certainly consider it” and were open to working with new partners for schemes in the UK and abroad.

CH2M Hill UK workforce

Around a third of CH2M Hill’s new UK jobs this year will be in the water sector.

Since its £124m acquisition of Halcrow in 2011, the firm has expanded to employ more than 3,000 staff in the UK.

It is bidding on major jobs, including the new £3 billion Thames Water alliance and to be the new owner of Magnox and Research Sites Restoration Limited under a £7bn Nuclear Decommissioning Authority contract, where it is bidding as CAS Restoration Partnership with Areva and Serco.

Around 170 of the 500 jobs to be created in the UK this year will go to the water sector, with transport set to be another area where resources will be employed.

Construction News understands around 400 of the new jobs have been assigned to different sectors, and that they are not dependent on new UK contract wins, as British engineers could be sent abroad to work on international projects.

CH2M Hill has restructured its management team to incorporate Halcrow and has its European headquarters in London.

Ms Hinman said: “We know about 80 per cent of where the jobs will go. These are projects we have [secured] or know are starting, or opportunities we have, so we are very bullish that we are going to fill them.

“We have had just over a year of integration with Halcrow, and during Q4 2012 we spent a lot of time looking at how we would go to market in the UK and Europe this year as a single business with a single leadership team.

“With that, we are able to work out a single platform for recruitment. The water business group want around 170 people in addition to what they’ve got, and transportation is a big area for us with what we’re doing with HS2, Crossrail and the Highways Agency.”

The remaining 20 per cent of jobs will be “partly dependent on [contract] wins”, she added, and UK engineers could be sent abroad depending on  where the company wins work.

She said: “There is a lot of demand for British engineering around the world. We use a lot of talent on projects around the world and we will hire people in the UK to work elsewhere. I’m not worried about 500 jobs, we’ll probably get more than we think.”


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