|The number of engineering jobs is growing at its fastest rate since the recession but the size of the engineering workforce is still 9% below its 2009 peak, according to an analysis by Nixon Williams, a leading accountancy provider for engineers.|
According to the research by Nixon Williams, there are currently 159,000 employees in the engineering sector, a 17.7% increase on the previous year, when there were 135,000 engineering jobs. This compares to 174,000 engineering jobs in 2009, the year the recession began.
Despite the surge in job creation, real terms pay in the engineering sector is still below its 2009 peak. Median annual pay in the engineering sector is currently £29,806, barely 2% higher than in 2009, when median annual pay stood at £29,222. This compares favourably with other highly skilled sectors, such as IT, where median annual pay is £36,148, 2.6% lower than its 2009 peak of £37,094 per annum.
Martin Brennan, Practice Manager of Nixon Williams, comments: “The UK engineering sector has seen its strongest year of jobs growth since the recession and has cemented its status as one of the key drivers of economic output in recent years. Employers are increasingly reporting that a shortage of engineers is a threat to their growth plans and are struggling to find the skills they need in the marketplace.”
“If the current rate of job creation is maintained, the size of the engineering workforce will exceed 2009 levels later this year. Despite the recovery in jobs, pay growth for engineers has been relatively subdued. We are seeing this phenomenon elsewhere in the economy where employers have opted to recruit graduates into entry level jobs and train them internally rather than recruit experienced, and often higher paid, candidates.”
Nixon Williams points out that spending on infrastructure projects, which heavily utilise engineering skills, has risen from around £41 billion annually 2005-10 to £45 billion annually 2011-13. The National Infrastructure Plan (NIP), which was announced by the Government last December, plans to spend £375 billion on infrastructure projects up to 2030 and beyond. This will pile further pressure on the UK’s engineering talent pool at a time when the supply of skills is already struggling to cope with demand.
Brennan states: “Demand for engineering skills in areas such as road building, rail and utilities has picked up markedly over the last few years, driving demand for engineers. With the number of students obtaining engineering apprenticeships and degrees in decline, the indigenous skills pool is dwindling.”
Brennan continues: “Despite the creation of new permanent roles, contracting continues to grow in popularity. One of the reasons for this is likely to be the erosion of job security and benefits for employees over the last few years, which has made contracting seem more appealing by comparison.”