A new survey of mostly UK-based engineering design firms, carried out by the Engineering Design Show in August, has revealed that more half of respondents are experiencing skills shortages, with a further 13 per cent anticipating shortages in the future. The companies reported increasing difficulties recruiting and/or retaining staff with the right skills and stated a belief that the issue has become a major problem across the industry.
Among the most influential causes of the shortage put forward by respondents were issues surrounding changes to the IR35 off-payroll working business tax scheme. Brexit, location, workplace/employee benefits and the overall image of engineering as a career were also cited as important factors.
Unsurprisingly, many respondents pointed to a need to increase the number of young people, women and ethnic minorities working in the sector. When asked how the problem could be addressed, 61 per cent called for more training, 55 per cent called for improvements to education and the same proportion called for improvements to government apprenticeship schemes. (Interestingly, 60 per cent of respondents admitted they weren’t currently involved in an apprenticeship scheme; about 22 per cent that they take on between one and five apprentices each year.) Other recommendations included improvements to job advertising, a greater emphasis in schools on engineering as a career and the ability to hire highly specialised contractors outside the IR35 scheme.
When asked about the future of recruitment and retention in the industry, 42 per cent of respondents said that they expect the problem to worsen over the next five years, while 17 per cent hoped that it will improve and 20 per cent predicted that it wouldn’t change.
‘The results of this survey underline the very real need for skilled, talented, well-trained staff in the engineering design sector and just how crucial a topic it is to the industry,’ said Gordon Kirk, event director of the Engineering Design Show. ‘We are very much looking forward to being able to discuss these and other issues in person at EDS 2021 in October, and with more than 55 conference sessions over two days and some 150 organisations exhibiting, it is going to be a very exciting event for those wanting to see and hear about the latest technologies at first hand.’