How is the engineering industry shaping up post-recession and how can we recruit future talent? Paul Ainley, partner at Chatter, reveals the insights of their survey of 800 engineers.  

If you’re involved with recruiting engineers – you’ll know just how difficult it can be to track them down. Over at Chatter, together with the Daily Telegraph, we’ve been busy getting to grips with today’s engineering landscape. We already work with a number of large engineering firms, so we were keen to know more about how engineers feel about their career and the profession post-recession.

We picked up the phone to talk to employers. We asked all sorts of questions at engineering focus groups. And over 800 current and future civil, mechanical and structural engineers took part in our online survey.

This insight has been used to compile a 40-page report, and includes views on the engineering landscape, perceptions of the sector, career motivators, job-hunting and selecting a new employer.

With many firms already struggling to attract, recruit and retain good quality engineers, the results of our survey show this is likely to become more challenging as they’ll have to appeal to a broader range of career drivers amongst engineers, who recognise how scarce their expertise is becoming.

What do engineers want?

It’s clear the recession has had a deep impact and we noticed real change in the things engineers are looking for in an ideal employer. While financial compensation is a clear priority, other things like vision and leadership, learning and development along with financial security and work/life balance are all important factors too.

We found a commonly held belief that careers in engineering are not given the kudos they deserve, and the sector needs to work harder to build its profile and attract new talent. In particular, many felt the profession needed to appeal to a more diverse range of talent and that firms needed to do more to address the challenge of an ageing workforce.

Almost half of those taking part in the survey said they were likely to be actively looking for a new job in the next five years. When they do, they’ll be focused on finding direct ways to search and apply, using their own network of contacts to uncover opportunities and help them decide if it’s right for them, as well as searching corporate careers sites and approaching companies directly.

What can employers do to help?

From an employers perspective, having the right talent, in the right place at the right time is becoming increasingly important as large scale projects come on stream. The best performing firms will be those who can join the dots between their business strategy and people plans.

All in all, our research has shown that having joined up thinking across early careers and experienced hire recruitment, internal communications and people engagement, learning and development and reward and benefits for example, is becoming vital for engineering businesses to create a career offer that can appeal to a broad range of talent.

Written by Paul Ainley

Paul Ainley is a partner at Chatter, who helps businesses build and manage their reputation as employers through better engagement with talent.

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