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Will 2018 really be the year of engineering? Our predictions for the year ahead

by Heat Recruitment

2018 is now in full swing, and with it we have seen the collapse of industry giant Carillion, the continuation of an endemic skills shortage, and the full launch of the UK’s “Year of Engineering” strategy.

The strategy in particular has been designed to increase awareness of engineering as a profession, luring greater numbers of young people into viewing it as a career of choice – “tackling the engineering skills gap and widening the pool of young people who join the profession.”

In partnership with the UK Space Agency (in addition to £210,000 in funding for seven additional projects), the outreach programme aims to increase “understanding of what engineers do among young people aged seven to 16.”

It’s safe to say that the year ahead for the engineering sector is going to be an interesting one – but will 2018 really be the ‘Year of Engineering’ that the UK government is claiming?  What else is on the cards for Engineering in 2018, and what does this mean for the sector’s employment landscape?

The industry skills shortage could continue for many years to come

An obvious forecast, but a vital one to address… EngineeringUK recently identified that the country requires 1.8 million new engineers and technicians by 2025. Despite the sector contributing 26% of the UK’s GDP, however, we are currently seeing a shortfall of at least 20,000 specialists per year.

According to Ann Watson, Chief Executive of Semta: “We need to be starting much earlier. We need children of primary-school age to be given the opportunity to see what a modern cutting-edge engineering workplace looks like … so many young people who have an engineering skill and aptitude are lost to the sector because they’re not given that encouragement earlier.”

Rising salary packets for experienced staff, combined with an exodus of ‘old guard’ specialists

On the back of this skills shortage, however, comes good news for the specialists currently qualifying, and employees already within the industry.

Indeed, engineering and manufacturing roles are predicted to be two of the top five career options in 2018. In terms of salaries, the average engineer could claim £45,000 in 2016 – rising to £48,000 in 2017… and hitting upwards of £110,000 per year for senior members of the industry.

With ‘old guard’ staff now leaving the profession, and too few new entries to make up the numbers lost, the engineering profession is currently in a state of retraction – despite its clear importance to the UK economy overall.

The rise of robotics and AI to increase productivity levels // big data and analytics capabilities

In answer to this skills shortage, we expect to see a far greater use of future technology – including robotics, AI technology, and big data to boost overall productivity levels.

According to Kimberly Knickle, Research Vice President at IDC Manufacturing Insights: “Manufacturers of every size and shape are changing rapidly because of new digital technologies, new competitors, new ecosystems, and new ways of doing business.”

Manufacturers are now predicted to invest $267bn into Internet of Things (IoT) technologies by 2020. Comparably, the spend on robotics is now predicted to reach $67bn by 2025. It’s clear that Industry 4.0 is now booming and in 2018, it will be up to individual manufacturers to meet this new business landscape in an effective manner.

The return of the permanent career for engineers

So, what does this huge demand mean for the humble engineer? According to new figures, December of 2017 saw the continuation of an oncoming trend – the increased demand for permanent staff members, as opposed to temporary or contract-based workers. Engineers in particular were leading this charge, along with IT & Computing and Accounting & Financial.

With the skills shortage already upon us, and too few incoming specialists to plug the gap, employers are increasingly looking to secure top talent on a more permanent basis – ensuring expertise stays with the business. For engineers, this means a greater choice of roles, larger salary packages, and even greater job security for those who want it.

The skills shortage, combined with a greater demand for Engineering talent, means that there’s never been a better time to find the right role in the sector. If you’re looking for your next challenge or are looking for a reliable recruitment partner for your next hire, get in touch.