The Engineering Market
Engineering is a well-documented ‘skills shortage’ and as recruiters, we know that it can be hard for businesses to attract talented engineers with the skill set they require.
This week, we’ll be looking in more detail at the trends and challenges facing businesses recruiting in this area, and what this means for candidates who are considering a career move.
According to machinery.co.uk, 85% of manufacturing businesses are feeling the strain of a lack of skilled workers (March 2021) and 18% of businesses are understaffed across their engineering teams.
We concur. Since January this year, 30% of the vacancies that we have taken on at Expion are within engineering. And the roles are across the board. From Head of Engineering and Chief Engineers, through to multi-skilled and packaging engineers.
What’s the cause of the skill shortage? Over 40% of businesses cite a lack of qualified candidates, along with an aging workforce and a lack of willing apprentices.
But what of the stats? Around 186,000 new engineers are needed until 2024, but there’s a deficit of 20,000 annually according to Industryeurope.com. Can we blame Brexit? Perhaps, but the skilled workers scheme shouldn’t prevent anyone with engineering skills coming to the UK, although with Covid, I suspect this scheme hasn’t been truly tested.
So if you’re recruiting in engineering and feeling the pressure, you’re not alone.
How to attract engineers into your business
There’s no one size fits all. We recommend creating a ‘proposition’ to share with recruiters, or work with your recruiter or HR team to create one.
It’s like a sales tool. Have a brainstorm of why someone would want to join the business and the team. What makes you unique? What can you offer that another business can’t? I’m not talking about money here – it’s about opportunity, progression and engineers love to have the chance to broaden their experience. And if you’re recruiting in project engineering, what’s the value of projects an incoming project engineer would be able to work on?
Be open (as much as you can) on the specification of the candidate. A tight spec with a long list of must haves is a sure way to reduce your candidate pool. Could you attract someone from an industry that isn’t performing so well? Aerospace firms have been hit hard by Covid, whereas those in FMCG, Pharma and Distribution have thrived.
Are you paying competitively? If you’re below market rate, you’ll find yourself short of talent and unable to compete. Could you consider someone part-qualified? Supporting someone who is training can be a good way of managing salary banding and contributing to developing future succession for your business.
Keep ‘em sweet
Retaining your engineering talent is one way to avoid having to recruit. But it’s deeper than that.
We’re seeing a lot more commitment to personal development, and employers offering to pay costs and give time out to study for engineers who wish to continue their studies, as far as degree level and masters in some cases. Engineers seeking chartered status can be picky over who they join, and will want to ensure that the business will seek to support them, often within a defined time period.
Staff are far less likely to leave if you are funding their development, and especially if there’s a tie in period after qualification. Francesca, who heads up our Automotive division said ‘Businesses are also paying the fees and supporting their engineers in achieving chartered status’
She added ‘A lot of companies are pushing on with apprenticeship recruitment programmes.This is a stark contrast to the last recession where the large majority pulled out of their apprenticeship schemes, and it's a sign that they have felt the pain of a diminishing candidate pool’.
There are other insights too. From offering secondments to other departments/divisions and involvement with business initiatives (D&I, wellbeing), businesses are driving ways to not only develop, but keep their talent.
From government, schools and organisations working in the sector, there are numerous initiatives to encourage young people to pursue STEM careers. The long term vision is to encourage more people into skills-short areas, but will they ever catch up?
We don’t know. But there are a variety of people and organisations helping. From the Automotive 30% Club to The Engineering Development Club, these organisations promote STEM careers and run programmes in schools to inspire and motivate young people to consider technical careers. The growth of the UTC framework of schools is designed to bring technical vocations to life for young people and grow the next generation of engineers.
#stemambassadors also do amazing work in schools. Talking about the day-to-day life of people in industry makes STEM careers seem less ‘technical’ and more achievable.
Let’s hope these amazing initiatives have a big impact on the future of our engineering capability
Equality, Diversity & Inclusion
Diversity and inclusivity are rising up the agenda for many businesses, who are also looking at creative ways to attract a diverse candidate pool - through cross-training, mentorship and buddy systems to really support people from diverse backgrounds in joining and building a long-term career in the engineering sector.
There are also plenty of initiatives around accessibility. How can employers make roles more accessible to candidates with disabilities? Many websites are being modified to ensure accessibility for all, and this should also mean an increase in applications from diverse applicants.
And don’t forget, every recruitment process needs to be accessible to all.