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CH2M Hill will manage seawater injection project in Iraq to enhance oil recovery near Basra, site of a key shipping terminal.

With the integration of London-based design firm Halcrow Group into its organization following a 2011 acquisition, CH2M Hill Cos., Denver, said on April 3 that it now plans to hire 500 engineers in the U.K.

CH2M Hill says Great Britain is now the firm's largest overseas market and, along with the Middle East, a key target area for growth.

The new U.K.-based recruits will work in CH2M Hill's infrastructure units—including nuclear, transportation, tunneling, water and environmental services—as well as in industrial sectors and advanced technology. CH2M Hill also plans to take on 40 graduates, 60 apprentices and paid interns this year.

After a period of job shedding among U.K. design firms in the wake of budget cutbacks in government construction and other economic impacts, “it is good to see industry continuing to make much-needed investments in skills-development programs,” says Nick Baveystock, director general of the Institution of Civil Engineers. The U.K. has “an enormous program of infrastructure work to deliver, requiring a highly skilled workforce,” he adds.


U.K. staff also will support the group's wider efforts, says Jacqueline Hinman, Denver-based president of CH2M Hill's international division. “We have a lot of examples where we are exporting British talent around the world. We are very, very bullish on this. … We find that our British graduates are culturally astute and well-thought-out technical specialists."

The new recruits will add to CH2M Hill's current 3,300-member U.K. staff, which is around 150 more than when CH2M Hill acquired Halcrow, says Jonathan Refoy,
 the firm's director of European corporate affairs. Halcrow then employed some 6,000 staff globally and 2,800 staff in the U.K., where CH2M Hill had 350 of its 24,000 employees.

While Halcrow remains a separate legal entity, it now is operationally integrated within CH2M Hill at its West London office. The Halcrow name will likely disappear by the end of next year as the group plans to consolidate subsidiaries under one title, yet to be decided.

U.K. operations now are run by Mark Fallon, previously CH2M Hill's nuclear-sector president, based in the U.S. He replaced Halcrow's former CEO Peter Gammie, who retired.

Since the acquisition, CH2M Hill has restructured its international operations around the Halcrow model. It now has groups in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and Canada that are run by regional managing directors.

Previously, “most of the strategic decisions were made along the lines of global business units,” says Hinman. "[Regional bosses] really weren't charged with growing the local business and coordinating all the sectors together.”

“Part of the reason for wanting to add this great competency and permanent presence with Halcrow was to strengthen the local knowledge we have in places around the world and the ability to do local decision-making," says Hinman. 

Nevertheless, the group retains U.S.-led global business-sector groups focusing on strategy, technology and training.

Even after 20 years of performing nuclear maintenance work in the U.K., CH2M Hill was hardly known locally.

That all changed when the firm teamed up with two local contractors to secure the high-profile contract to manage construction of the Olympic Park for last year's successful London 2012 Games. Since then, the company has picked up management contracts on other megaprojects in the U.K., including London's Crossrail and Thames Tideway sewer tunnel.

Winning the London Olympics contract “was our top priority and top pursuit in 2005,” says Hinman. “I personally moved here for a year and half ... to figure out what we needed to do and who we needed to partner with.”

London 2012 raised the firm's global profile and “allowed us to win some other big programs,” Hinman says, citing management contracts on the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and the 2022 World Cup soccer tournament in Qatar.

Halcrow boosted the share of CH2M Hill's non-U.S. work to 30% from 20% of the total, and the U.K. is now the group's largest international market. Hinman views the U.K., continental Europe and the Middle East as key growth areas.