The Recruitment Churn faced by the Process Industry

Loathe them or loathe them (no that’s not a typo!), recruitment consultants are an indelible feature of the HR conundrum facing the Process Industry today. Clearly, they’re not everyone’s cup of tea and could their influence actually be having a detrimental effect on industry staffing levels?

Interview candidates


According to recent comments from one of our most esteemed engineering exponents, Sir James Dyson, engineering firms in the UK are fighting an uphill battle to find new high-skilled recruits, let alone hang on to them. Sir James will this year employ a further 650 engineers, 300 of whom will be based at Dyson’s UK base in Malmesbury and the reminder in Asia.

He told the Telegraph in September that Britain “produced 12,000 engineering graduates a year – and there are currently 54,000 vacancies. It’s predicted that in two years time there will be 200,000 vacancies. India produces 1.2m engineering graduates a year. The Philippines produces more than us, so does Iran, so does Mexico. It’s not a sustainable situation.

“We have very bright engineers and a good business environment. The problem is not enough people want to do engineering,” he added.

There’s a gaping chasm of a skills shortage in UK engineering (and across the STEM industries as a whole). The challenge facing process industry businesses - working within an evermore competitive, and rapidly advancing, environment - is how to attract and retain the best of the best.

Cue recruitment consultancies. Industry relies on their expertise to find the high calibre prospects and funnel them through to where they’re needed most. All that comes at a premium of course and not just a hefty financial cost either.

Head hunting engineers

Churn rate is a notion that describes employee turnover, compared to overall staffing levels. Working within a limited pool of resources, and a finite number of technical recruits to market, could recruiters be actively churning up the recruitment pond by assisting the migratory flow of personnel? Has the focus shifted from placing quality candidates for the long-term (forging strong relationships and trust), to an incentive-based mentality driven by short-term commission goals?

I want you poster

The drive to place candidates in the highest paying salaries could well be hurting the HR plans of UK firms with nine or fewer employees, and a turnover of under £2 million, who currently employ approximately 90% of engineers in the UK.

That’s according to the Institute of Mechanical Engineers who say: “’Blue chip’ companies have multiple applications from appropriately skilled engineers while smaller companies have insufficient applications.”

Smaller process industry businesses are effectively being gazumped in the application stages or stripped of their best assets when the lure of a better offer comes along, leaving a “brain drain” of vital skills and talent, as well as a severely limited return on investment.

One scheme specifically aimed at retaining engineering talent is the Talent Retention Solution (TRS), a website that holds details of engineering staff at risk of redundancy and vacancies in the engineering sectors. It was launched by the Skills and Jobs Retention Group, which includes representatives from BAE Systems, Rolls Royce and Nissan, in 2011.

According to TRS: “This is good news for engineers looking for work, for companies looking to recruit and for the UK as a way of retaining vital skills for the benefit of growing sectors in engineering such as aerospace, automotive, renewables, marine and nuclear.”

It adds: “The service is free for SMEs with employee numbers less than 500, so they can benefit from the system at no cost. For all companies interested in engineering recruitment, this is an opportunity not to be missed.”

What is your experience of recruitment consultants?

Are they helping or hindering your engineering career? 

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