UK’s industrial recovery set to strengthen into 2015


UK engineers are reporting surging confidence in economic recovery, on the back of major investment in infrastructure projects and government calls for a rebalancing of the economy towards manufacturing and industry, according to a comprehensive survey of more than 3500 engineers conducted by engineering recruitment specialist Matchtech.

The report finds that engineers expect 2015 to see growing order books and employment within their industry, but Matchtech warns the survey also highlights increased concern about the growing engineering skills gap, which it says the government, employers and the wider engineering community need to address if the UK’s industrial recovery is to be maintained.

Of those surveyed for the 2014 Matchtech Confidence Index, three-fifths of engineers (61%) working in the UK’s £1.06 trillion turnover engineering industry say they are confident the industry will grow its revenues and income in the coming 12 months.

More than half (56%) of engineers questioned say they are confident the UK will continue to be a leader within global engineering, with two fifths (40%) of the engineers questioned believing the engineering sector has a better reputation and is held in higher esteem in the UK today than it was 12 months ago.

In addition, 45% of engineers questioned believe their company will increase its overseas work in 2015, and 43% expect their employer to recruit more staff in the coming year (with just 20% saying they do not expect staff numbers to rise).

However, the survey also highlights that demand for engineers is resulting in a skills gap in the industry, with only around one-in-twenty (5%) of the engineers surveyed believing there is no skills shortage in the UK.

Keith Lewis, Matchtech Managing Director, states: “The engineering sector has shown strong growth in the past 18 months and has been lauded for leading the UK recovery; however, we have to act now to address the skills shortage if we are to build a sustainable recovery and maintain what George Osborne has described as the ‘March of the Makers’.

“In reality, we are seeing record demand for engineers and engineering skills and more than half of engineers are still confident in their own prospects. However, the biggest challenge facing the engineering industry is the skills shortage and people considering leaving the industry for jobs elsewhere, or retirement. If the engineering and manufacturing recovery is to be maintained then we have to invest in training and qualifications and encourage more people to study STEM subjects, whilst ensuring that the vital skills of UK engineers are more broadly recognised, in order to encourage people to remain in the industry and in the UK.”

When it comes to the impact of economic recovery on their industry, more than two fifths (46%) of engineers surveyed believe high-profile infrastructure projects are positively changing perceptions of the industry, with 43% believing that improved economic conditions are driving confidence across the industry, compared to just 22% surveyed for last year’s Matchtech Confidence Index, who believed the economy was having a positive impact on engineering.