In the latest edition of the John Henry Group’s COMMUNICA magazine, Richard Gelder, Director of Construction and Property Recruitment at global recuitment company Hays PLC, shared his thoughts on what companies must do to attract the best engineering talent into their businesses and where the skills gaps are in the current job marketplace.
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COMMUNICA MAGAZINE (CM)
What is the current market like for the recruitment of civil engineering professionals in the UK?
RICHARD GELDER (RG)
For many employers, a major obstacle to achieving growth in the year ahead will be their ability to recruit and retain skilled individuals. In the past 18 months we have seen a dramatic pick-up in recruitment of civil and structural engineers. Confidence over future work pipelines is fuelling the desire to recruit permanent staff, but as the supply of engineers is limited, employers must move quickly to find the right people.
We have already seen an increase in demand for engineers with one to four years’ experience across all sectors and deal daily with engineering businesses seeking to increase staffing levels as workloads improve. Quality candidates are scarce, vacancies can be tricky to fill and high-calibre professionals can move easily into new roles, creating many opportunities for both permanent and
CM :Which areas are seeing the greatest demand?
RG: All areas are buoyant, but housing and infrastructure projects continue to have the highest demand. Recruitment for those with drainage expertise has escalated, and the Government’s aspiration to have all centrally procured projects hit Level 2 Building and Information Modelling (BIM) by 2016 has seen Revit software experience becoming ever more prized. We have noticed that house builders are opening new offices to cope with the increasing workload and bringing design teams in house.
Confidence over future work pipelines is fuelling the desire to recruit permanent rather than contract staff, however the shortage of suitable candidates means employers are often turning to temporary or interim professionals as they simply can’t afford to hang around until the right permanent staff member comes along.
CM: What impact is this having on pay and benefits?
RG: The prospect of an ever-draining talent pool, for the time being at least, is having a knock-on effect in terms of salaries.
Employers are being more competitive from graduate level upwards in terms of the money they’re offering. Improvements in other benefits have so far been less pronounced, though in some regions firms are beginning to question whether their packages are attractive enough.
Employers will have to think beyond pay if they are to compete in this competitive market, offering clear opportunities for career development to both attract and retain the people they need.
CM: What should be done to address skill shortages in engineering?
RG: One of the causes of these skill shortages is too few people entering the profession, particularly at graduate level, so it is vital that we invest in and motivate the next generation of engineers.
Engineering UK predicts that engineering companies will need 182,000 people per year with engineering skills in the decade to 2022 but there is a current annual shortfall of 55,000 skilled workers.
To inspire and encourage more young people to pursue studies and careers in
engineering, businesses need to partner with education authorities to create education systems that ensure we have sufficient graduates with the skills that closely align with what businesses need.
This means education authorities working directly with local businesses to deliver a curriculum that provides students with the skills demanded by employers in their area.
This includes encouraging more young people, particularly girls, to pursue GCSE and A level physics, and creating more apprenticeship schemes to provide alternative routes into the professions.
These long-term solutions must be addressed in tandem with an approach to immigration that gives businesses access to the talent they need.
The market for engineers is international, and while this creates exciting career opportunities for individuals it also means employers must be able to compete at an international level to attract highly skilled workers, and need policies to enable them to do so.
*COMMUNICA would like to the PR team and Richard Gelder at Hays PLC for contributing to the pilot edition.