Quality candidates are in short supply, there are more vacancies than can easily be filled, and high-calibre professionals are able to move effortlessly from contract to contract. Yet while the situation is better than at any time since 2007, there’s still room for things to move up another gear or two.
All areas within the sector are buoyant, but housing and infrastructure projects – such as HS2 and motorway improvements – continue to provide the greatest impetus. Engineers with drainage expertise are vital in both these fields, and demand for such candidates has rapidly escalated over the past few months. The government’s aspiration to have all centrally procured projects hit Level 2 Building and Information Modelling (BIM) by 2016 has also seen Revit software experience shifting from a ‘nice to have’ to a necessity. Consultancies in regions such as the south, meanwhile, are expanding the services they offer, creating exciting roles within new specialist teams.
The industry-wide dearth of individuals with two to five years’ post-qualifying experience is badly afflicting the engineering sector. Many firms are looking at taking on graduates to develop, sometimes on probationary contracts, or at sourcing talent from continental Europe and beyond.
Confidence over future work pipelines is fueling the desire to recruit permanent rather than contract staff, especially at the junior end of the market – the demand ratio in London, for example, is 80/20. Pressure on supply means, however, that interim measures must often be adopted. Companies’ workloads dictate that they simply can’t afford to hang around until the right permanent staff member comes along. Opportunities abound for experienced contract engineers who can pick up the slack on a temporary basis – a situation that’s likely to persist.
The prospect of an ever-draining talent pool, for the time being at least, is having a knock-on effect in terms of salaries. Employers are being more competitive from graduate level upwards in terms of the money they’re offering. Improvements in other benefits have so far been less pronounced, though in some regions firms are beginning to make enquiries as to whether their packages are attractive enough. With counter-offers becoming a common distraction and the market still having room for improvement, it’s important that candidates maintain focus on their key motivations and go for that career move – or that improved contract – for the right reasons.