Engineers lack confidence in UK industry

Friday 29 November 2013

In the midst of a growing global skills shortage, engineering contractors are unlikely to have too much difficulty in finding opportunities in markets around the world as well as at home in the UK. But as the industry landscape shifts, a new study from recruitment consultancy Matchtech has found that professionals are losing confidence in the UK’s future as an engineering hub.

In its latest Confidence Index, the firm found that UK engineers are becoming more uncertain of the UK’s potential in the coming years. Of more than 1,000 engineers surveyed, more than six out of ten said they expected the UK would eventually cease to be a world leader in engineering. Given the extent of current skills shortages in the UK and global engineering sectors, it is even more concerning that 58 per cent said they were willing to move to another country for the right role.

When it came to solutions to this growing problem there was some consolation, as confidence in governmental policy overall rose by eleven percentage points from last year to 58 per cent. Matchtech suggests that this year’s spate of announcements promising investment in large-scale infrastructure projects and efforts to encourage more graduates in scientific disciplines. However, it seems the coalition’s efforts are a comparative drop in the ocean, as a total of 76 per cent agreed they lacked confidence in the actions taken by the government to boost innovation.

“Whilst the UK engineering industry is continuing to experience further growth and a number of major projects, it is concerning to see that those within the industry continue to feel doubtful about their future here in the UK,” says Keith Lewis, Matchtech managing director.

“A high level of confidence in the industry from the engineers themselves is vital so that we are not held back by losing some of our best talent to other countries.”

However, in terms of employment prospects the engineering sector seems fairly upbeat, as the number of engineers who are worried about getting work in the future demonstrated a small decline. Whereas 2012 saw 30 per cent of respondents admit they were worried about their prospects, the figure slipped to 27.5 per cent this year. For contractors hoping to secure assignments in the domestic market over the next few months and years, it appears that the signs are fairly positive.

Equally, engineers’ confidence in the salaries they will draw has risen slightly. Some 66 per cent of professionals said they felt their earnings were competitive by overall industry standards, representing a three-percentage point rise in the space of a year. Organisations seems to be making efforts to attract and retain the specialist expertise they will need for future projects.

“As the engineering sector continues to grow, creating increased demand for engineers with the right level of skills, engineers have cause for optimism," said Paul Jackson, chief executive of EngineeringUK, adding that government investment was a necessary step to improve engineers’ confidence in Westminster to ease skills shortages. “Higher expectations of employment are also good to see as 1.86 million additional skilled engineers are needed to meet demand by 2020.”

By Victoria McDonnell

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