The engineering recruitment paradox

Despite continued global volatility in the manufacturing sector, many companies are gearing up to recruit more engineering talent. However, new figures from a prominent recruitment website suggest that it might not be as simple as they think.

Engineering recruitment in the UK

The engineering recruitment paradox is no new thing. Employers need skilled recruits; there just aren't enough to go round. But several new recent studies have put the problem into sharp focus.

Engineering roles are the hardest for recruiters to fill

Firstly, EEF, a lobby group for engineering and manufacturing employers, has forecasted that six per cent of manufacturers are planning to hire more workers over the next quarter. Great news wouldn't you say? Yes and no. Because a separate survey by online job site CV-Library suggests that engineering roles are the hardest for recruiters to fill. According to their findings, nearly half (49.9 per cent) of recruiters believe that engineering is the hardest sector to place candidates.

“In a job market where candidates now have more selection, it’s unsurprising to see that recruiters are struggling to fill the growing number of roles available,” said Lee Biggins, founder and managing director of CV-Library. “That, combined with the growing concern over skills shortages continue to cause a problem for the engineering industry,” he added.

As if to highlight the point, another report by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and KPMG has shown that despite a continued rise in placements for the month of August, the rate of growth was at a 27-month low. Candidate availability also dropped at its fastest rate for the year so far.

Could the recruiters actually be the blockage?

An anonymous engineer, commenting on this topic on The Engineer website, gave an interesting counter-argument to the recruiters' downcast opinions of the sector. In their view, it is a lack of sector understanding at the recruiter level that is actually holding back the recruitment process.

“One of the main problems in my experience in the field is recruiters - certainly the ones I have dealt with (with a single exception) - seem not to truly understand Engineering and are over-reliant on job-specs written by non-engineers,” they observed.

Despite applying for over 3000 roles in the last three years (ONLY roles I am competent to undertake, hit the ground running and geographically suited for) I have had two interviews in those three years

Strong wage growth provides the silver lining

There is a silver lining – one that might just tempt those elusive new recruits – which is that salary growth is booming. That's thanks to the paucity of candidates and the need to retain the current skilled labour force. Yet another recruitment paradox, but presumably one that current engineers will no doubt want to continue!

“In response to worsening skills shortages, employers are focussing on retaining the staff they have and this will promote wage growth,” said REC chief executive, Kevin Green. “Better investment in training and motivating the current workforce should also help to improve productivity,” he added.

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