Drives & Controls Magazine September 2023

RECRUITING ENGINEERS ‘HAS NEVER BEEN THIS TOUGH’ The skills shortage in the UK engineering sector seems to be getting even worse. A recent article in The Observer reported that young people with technical degrees are opting for better-paying jobs in “sexier” sectors such as IT and financial technology. It quoted Liz Chapman, director of technical design services at the engineering services business Stantec, as saying that she had “never known it to be this tough to find engineering staff”. According to the jobs Web site Indeed, mechanical engineers are now the second-hardest employees to find in the UK (behind vets), with electrical engineers in fourth position and industrial engineers in seventh. Meanwhile, the job search engine Adzuna reports that the number of engineering vacancies grew from 86,550 to 91,255 in the first half of this year, bucking the national trend that saw vacancies across all sectors fall from 1.3 million to just over a million over the same period, with some companies withdrawing job ads because of the high levels of interest rates and uncertainty over the state of the economy. Although average salaries in the engineering sector have risen by 6.3% over the past year to £41,473, they are still some way behind the £50,000 or more that new data science graduates can demand as starting salaries – with some investment banks and financial technology firms being willing to pay far more. Even if they do embark on an engineering career, young people are often tempted away by better pay and benefits packages in other sectors. Adzuna points out that young people are more inclined to change jobs sooner, with a “churn” that has reduced average job tenures in the UK to under five years. The difficulty in recruiting young engineers is also likely to hold up important national projects such as upgrading the UK’s water infrastructure, and expanding the electricity grid to accept more renewable energy sources and to provide enough power to charge the growing fleet of electric vehicles. As has often been said before, engineering needs an image change and this has to start at the school level. The Observer article quotes Dr Hilary Leevers, CEO of Engineering UK, as saying that she doesn’t believe that pay is the main factor limiting interest in engineering jobs, but rather “the perception that engineers must wear hard hats at all times and get their hands dirty”. Young people “who make the connection between engineering and sustainability are seven times more likely to be interested in an engineering career,” she adds. We have been complaianing about the UK’s engineering skills shortage for decades now, but nothing ever seems to change. As we have seen, things may actually be getting worse. And yet, if we cannot manage to turn things around, then the UK’s future as an effective contender on the global technological stage is looking bleak. Tony Sacks, Editor n COMMENT Small & precision brushed and brushless motors, stepper motors, frameless torque motors Stepper motor drives, intelligent & integrated stepper and servomotor drives - StepSERVOtm Integrated AC servo- and stepper motors - MAC motor® & ServoSteptm Robust incremental and absolute encoders for speed and posi琀onal feedback Harsh industrial, vacuum and UHV, cryogenic and space rated stepper motors and gearboxes Small & precision stepper, brushed and brushless motor applica琀ons Precision resolvers, AC and DC servomotors, high-precision sensors, IMUs and gyros High performance, mul琀-axis mo琀on control technology Planetary and spur gear units Slip ring assemblies Geared DC motors Vacuum and harsh industrial posi琀oning systems Applica琀on-speci昀c mo琀on control +44 (0) 1252 531444 Custom engineered mo琀on systems Servo motors & drives Stepper motors & drives Feedback devices Gearboxes Mo琀on controllers & so昀ware Mechanical components As a leading supplier of precision mo琀on control products for over 40 years, we have a commitment to technical excellence and customer service and adopt a partnership approach to business. We o昀er our customers a professional speci昀ca琀on and design & build service, backed up with quali昀ed and experienced technical sales and applica琀ons support sta昀. The Place For Precision Mo琀on Control Challenge Us To Provide You With A Complete Solu琀on