Research undertaken by Jonathan Lee Contract Recruitment suggests that while those earlier in their career still opt for permanent roles, a greater number of more experienced specialists are opting for contract work where they have greater flexibility in work content and can build a career portfolio of interesting projects and roles.
With the demand for skilled engineers growing year-on-year, some 265,000 engineering employees will need to be recruited by 2024, according to a study by Engineering UK, which also indicates that we are currently falling short of this by 69,000 per year.
Shortfall of engineers & skilled graduates
Jon Blaze, Head of Recruitment Operations at Jonathan Lee Contract Recruitment explains: “The annual shortfall of engineers and skilled graduates is proving challenging. Our research echoes the widely held belief in industry that workforce mobility and easier skills transfer will be key platforms for addressing skill gaps and shortages in the future.
“While the majority of over 50s in contract roles (89%) choose to work on this basis, the next largest group is 30-39-year olds (57%) who cite pay (63%), more interesting work (55%) and career advancement (45%) as key reasons for opting for contracting rather than permanent roles.
“For engineering contractors, our survey reveals that the primary benefits of contracting include more flexibility, being able to focus on the work instead of office politics and the fact that they can go into any organisation and use their experience to make a difference within a relatively short space of time. They can help to bring clarity to decision making and steer the strategic direction of a business.
“The dynamic and fast-changing engineering landscape makes the flexibility of working with contractors especially attractive as companies have an immediate need to plan for uncertainty, adapt to new technologies and deal with fast-changing market realities including big data, connectivity and Industry 4.0.”
Government Backing STEM Education
In its latest budget, the Government announced that it will be backing STEM education and training to combat the skills deficit. This proposal alongside the industrial strategy, where four industry sectors: life sciences, artificial intelligence, construction and automotive have been identified to help drive the UK to be more competitive outside of Europe on the global stage.
With an increased emphasis on the UK’s manufacturing capabilities, a flexible and adaptable workforce is going to become increasingly important and it is not surprising that socalled portfolio careers are becoming increasingly attractive to candidates and delivering benefits to employers.
Blaze continues: “Looking ahead, we predict that big data will shift the existing contracting paradigm. While the current contracting workforce have valuable skill-sets that are still necessary, they do not have the data engineering skill-sets to enable Industry 4.0.
“Demand in this space is likely to see the increasing participation of younger engineers. We anticipate considerable growth in the engagement of contractors in the 20-30 age bracket over the next decade who possess these new, distinct skill-sets. However, their lack of experience will see the need to marry their new skills with those more traditional skill-sets to harness and exploit useful data.
“Whether a position should be filled by a contractor is now an essential part of the recruitment decision surrounding hardto-find skills. Partnering with a specialist contract finder can help give confidence around flexible options, particularly when it comes to understanding and navigating relevant legislative requirements.
“Ultimately, the employment landscape is changing and with careful planning companies must compete for and harness the skills they need from both permanent and contract roles to build the team they need to secure long-term success.”