11th, Jul, 2020

Contrary to popular belief, British manufacturing is thriving not declining; however, this prospering industry is still at risk due to a major skills shortage within the UK.

Research has found that six out of 10 employers are worried that a growing shortage of engineers will jeopardise their business activities.

According to manufacturing research, Britain is now producing more than in 1966 when manufacturing employment was at its peak. The companies that are now the bedrock of British industry have transformed their businesses to mitigate the effects of globalisation and low-cost country sourcing (LCCS) to become leading producers of design-intensive and high-value products.

The difficulty with this transition is that firms are now concerned about the lack of engineers in the labour market and some are even worried that their businesses may not survive into the next decade due to their inability to recruit employees with the right expertise.

Specialising in recruiting mechanical design engineers in the Northern part of the UK, the majority of my work comes from the industrial heartlands of England; particularly from the valve manufacturing industry. People in the know will recognise that there is a core group of 15-20 companies based between Manchester, Huddersfield, Leeds, Sheffield and Hull and for these companies, the above few paragraphs couldn’t be more pertinent.

For SMEs, recruiting designers to work on valves and seals and the associated ancillary equipment has always been tough. The skill set is rare and larger companies resorting to paying sky-high salaries to attract the best talent only compounds this issue with under-supply.

Globally, companies do not have enough engineers with valve design expertise to share between them and as such, those companies who are training their employees but not regularly reviewing salaries risk having their staff headhunted to fill the requirements of a competitor.

This led me to thinking about ways to combat the skill shortage for SMEs that don’t have the resources to pay the astronomical salaries offered by larger businesses.

1. Make internship relationships with your local Universities. For example, a few customers have made relationships with Universities and offer 3rd year students the opportunity to take on an internship within the design team. In return they receive ‘first refusal’ on candidates that graduate from University. The benefit with this scheme is they get the opportunity to hand pick the good talent before their competition – people who have at least a year of relevant design experience.

2. The second, and more advantageous option, is to ‘up skill’ design engineers from other industries. There are many candidates who are degree qualified, very experienced but haven’t designed valves. If these candidates have been designing pumps, manifolds, actuators, hydraulics or components with moving parts they will, after some training, learn how to design a valve.

I appreciate that this will work for some companies and not for others. Some will refuse to move with the times or engage in a cultural shift. In my opinion we need to put plans in place sooner rather than later to up skill engineers and breed new blood into this area of the manufacturing sector.

If you are a valve design candidate or client and would like to discuss your thoughts on this subject please make contact with me. If you are looking for work as a Valve Design Engineer or seeking engineers to work for your business then please call Adam Whittaker on 0161 212 2308.

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