THE Institution of Civil Engineering (ICE) has launched an outdoor advertising campaign to address a skills shortage in the industry and inspire more young people to consider pursuing a career in the profession.

The first This Is Civil Engineering banners were unveiled yesterday at a retail site in Edinburgh, where Barr Construction is building a Sainsbury's store for the developer Morbaine Ltd.

They include a QR code, which when scanned by smartphone users will take them to a campaign website.

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Barr has funded the cost of the first banners and it is hoped other members of the ICE will follow suit at their own sites to allow the campaign to roll out across the UK.

The campaign builds on activities undertaken by the ICE in primary and secondary schools in Scotland to encourage young people to consider studying civil engineering and attract more females to the industry.

Barclay Chalmers, president of the ICE's West of Scotland branch and the managing director of Barr Construction, said: "We came up with the idea at the Institution that if we put these banners up on typical construction contracts, people driving past could click on to the QR code and that would take them to the web page to see what civil engineering is about.

"We're trying to get other contractors and clients to take part in this initiative and this is the first site we've done in Scotland to try to get publicity to raise the profile of civil engineering as a profession.

"After all, it is pretty well recognised [that] Scotland punches well above its weight [in civil engineering].

"We had the first president way back with Thomas Telford and things like the Forth Bridge, an iconic structure that's probably recognisable in most corners of the world.

"We've got this great tradition and this is what we're trying to maintain."

Mr Chalmers noted that the prevailing economic climate made it a difficult time to promote careers in the industry, adding that fewer people were currently applying to study the subject at universities.

Mr Chalmers said the ICE was aware there could be a skills shortage by the end of the decade as the last of the "baby boomers" near the end of the careers. He said: "There's a feeling that now is a good time and encourage kids to think of civil engineering."