Britain has seen strong growth in parts of its engineering sector over the last year thanks to a strengthening global economy. However, the success of British companies in growing their international order books has led to a skills shortage as they struggle to find qualified staff to help meet demand.
While the appreciation of the UK pound against other currencies will have stemmed the growth in demand for British products to some extent, the skills shortage remains an on-going problem. This has led many of the major UK engineering firms to implement special recruitment programmes to ensure that they have the skills that they need to expand their business.
No industry sector has more acute pressure to recruit skilled workers than the energy industry. The fact that the oil price remained stuck at around $20 a barrel during the 1990s caused many companies to lay off staff. This has caused a shortage of experienced oil workers throughout the world. The UK in particular has lost out as companies in the Arab states are able to offer lucrative tax free packages that can't be matched by their British counterparts.
Among the measures taken by the energy sector to address the skills shortage are attempts to lure retired workers back to work and to recruit engineers from as far afield as India and China. They are also seeking to recruit more women.
The latest Markit/CIPS Construction PMI survey suggests that a record number of construction jobs are being created, with companies recruiting at a pace not seen for twenty years. The above report showed growth within the sector far above the rate required for the ‘growth’ definition and also noted that civil engineering continues to spike in popularity, with a curve due to developing projects.
Far from being isolated to the UK market, the sector is also performing strongly across the Atlantic. According to the latest report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, July was a strong month for job growth in general, but particularly for the construction industry.
A total of 209,000 new jobs were reported in July. Although this is less than in June, the Construction industry added 22,000 jobs by itself, which is an increase of over 100% from the previous month’s revised figure. There’s clearly a demand here and an increase in projects results in an increase in jobs.
Jaguar-Land Rover, which is owned by the Indian manufacturing giant Tata, has instituted a program to attract ex-military personnel with relevant skills to the company. Traditionally, skilled people leaving the military have tended to be overlooked by employers due to the fact that they often lack the formal qualifications that someone in the private sector would have if they were doing the same job.
At the same time, Jaguar-Land Rover and the other major car manufacturers in the UK are also using education to ensure that they will have appropriate staff and engineers available to them in the future. Ford is building a new training centre and Bentley is creating a technical college.
A variety of other small British manufacturing companies have achieved impressive growth over the last year, with niche manufacturers in sectors ranging from gas cylinders to pumps for the oil industry all posting positive figures.
The pressure to gain access to necessary skills is causing more and more companies to turn to new approaches as well as contract and temporary workers in order to fill their gaps. Regardless, the above developments can only be positive news for the different sectors.