Civil and structural engineers and employers had a positive year, with healthy salary increases for the majority of professionals. Activity was also relatively positive with ongoing investment into a range of projects, from new housing, to major infrastructure. However, many factors remain which could potentially impact hiring in the coming year, including the ramifications of Brexit and an uncertain outlook for the economy.
On a positive note, according to the findings of the Hays UK Salary & Recruiting Trends 2018 guide, 93% of civil and structural engineering employers are expecting their activity to increase or stay the same in the coming year, and 78% anticipate hiring new staff to meet demand. Salaries have also risen by 2.7% in response, exceeding the national average of 1.8% across all industries and functions.
Rising salaries however are indicative of a potential challenge to recruitment; a shortage of suitable applicants, and therefore, a shortage of vital skills. in order to counter the shortage, employers are helping ease skills gaps by recruiting apprentices or increasing their training budget for staff. A third of employers also said they expect to hire temporary and contract workers in the next year, which will alleviate some of the immediate effects of skills shortages. But alleviating effects will only take you so far, long-term skills shortages will always have an effect on productivity.
So what steps can you take to mitigate skills shortages?
1) Make workforce planning a key strategic priority
Having a long-term vision of your workforce is vital to a successful business strategy, as is understanding the wide range of workforce solutions available and deciding upon the most effective one for you. As well as looking at your expected workflow, factor in wider elements such as risk mitigation and cost management and balance your short and long term requirements to make sure you’re taking the best course. If you need a CAD technician for a single project, or to cover leave - hire a talented temp; but if you believe your need for talent will increase over time, consider hiring a graduate engineer and training them in the specific area you require. This strategic approach will allow you to mitigate effects of skills shortages while continuing to meet business activity needs.
2) Invest in your employer brand to compete for talent
In occasions where a permanent member of staff is the best option for you, you need to make yourself an attractive option in a highly competitive market. Ensuring that you have a strong employer brand can help you appeal directly to the specific type of candidate you want to attract. Having a strong employee value proposition is central to this. Salary levels need to be benchmarked accurately, while progression opportunities and training investment need to be well-promoted.
Civil and structural engineers we spoke to were particularly concerned with work-life balance, and many had concerns about their working hours and commuting time, which over 30% of respondents wanted to change. Highlight your strengths where they appear – if you have good transport links, or flexible working policies, make these clear on your website and any job adverts, as they may be enough to attract talented professionals not actively looking for new opportunities.
3) Utilise contingent workers for more than just projects
Employers should reconsider their approach to hiring temporary workers and look at them as support staff, rather than a last-resort. Instead of using temps or interims to plug gaps, add resource to key projects or react to peaks in demand, they can be used to help alleviate some of the pressure caused by increased workloads. This will allow your teams to focus on key tasks and projects to add value to your organisation. These three recommendations from the Hays UK Salary & Recruiting Trends 2018 guide will help you plan the best workforce strategy for your organisation.
For more insights to help you plan your year ahead, and to discover detailed insights into the construction and property sector as a whole, request your copy of the Hays UK Salary & Recruiting Trends 2018 guide.
For more information or to discuss your recruitment needs in this field, please contact your local consultant.
About this author
Richard leads specialist recruiting consultants across the sector. He joined Hays in 1991 and quickly worked his way up through the ranks and was appointed Director in 2001.