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The demand for engineering talent in the UK is higher than ever.

More than half (54 per cent) of engineering recruiters believe that skills shortages have become more apparent in the last 12 months, and a further 28 per cent say shortages are just as bad as they were a year ago, according to data released in March by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC).

Within the UK, one of the geographical areas with the most demand for engineering talent is in the Midlands, where one of the UK’s largest employers is based. 

Jaguar Land Rover, Britain’s biggest carmaker, has seen its fortunes skyrocket in the last couple of years. In March it registered a 23 per cent rise in car sales year-on-year. This came on the back of a record-breaking month, quarter and financial year. Effectively, the company sells a car in Britain every two minutes.

The company's impressive growth is driven by unprecedented investment in new products. In 2015 Jaguar and Land Rover introduced a host of new cars and technologies to market, including the award-winning Jaguar XE and XF and Land Rover Discovery Sport.

Over the past five years, Jaguar Land Rover has employed more than 20,000 people, taking its workforce to more than 36,000, and has invested more than £11 billion in new product creation and capital expenditure, including in a new £500m car factory in Coventry.

Demand driven by skills at the sharp end

“Part of the demand for talent within engineering is driven by the demand for embedded software and electronics skills,” explains Alistair Marshall, Associate Business Manager, at engineering recruitment specialists, Progressive Recruitment. “A lot of the skills shortage is based around more modern technologies, such as the connectivity of devices. It is quite new technology and people in university might be learning this now but they weren't five years ago.”

Indeed, Jaguar recently announced the launch of InMotion, a new technology business that builds apps and on-demand services to overcome modern travel and transport challenges. In the coming months InMotion will begin real-world testing of a number of different services such as car sharing and car ownership solutions, across North America, Europe and Asia.

Contract roles are booming

Contract roles are booming, as companies work hard to keep their permanent employees from going elsewhere.

According to the latest REC/KPMG Jobs Report, the number of people placed in permanent jobs continued to increase during March. That said, the rate of growth eased to a six-month low. Temporary/contract staff billings on the other hand rose at the sharpest pace in four months.  

The availability of staff to fill job vacancies had deteriorated further in March. The sharper drop was indicated for permanent staff availability, which fell at a slightly sharper rate than in February.

“Contract is a very buoyant market right now, almost all of our contract candidates are in work,” says Alistair. “A few years ago that figure was running at 60%. It means that candidates now have a choice of roles, and they are placed quickly. They can interview on a Monday and be placed by the end of the week.”

Finding the right talent

“Within technology, it’s a much more complicated market to recruit for than several years ago,” explains Alistair.

“In the past if someone wanted to hire an IT developer they would look at code language and platform and that was it. These days, particularly within engineering, you have got so many derivatives and variations of the skillset that not one role is the same.

“Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that we are recruiting for an embedded software engineer, they may be writing in one language, but with 17 other variations, depending on the company. There might also be a different back end system. It is very difficult to find those people if you don't understand your market.

“What we do very well is that we make sure each person fully immerses themselves in what their people do before they start recruiting. You can't just type in keywords and hope someone comes back, engineering is so complex and has so many different layers that even the most basic of roles require work to fill.

“It helps that we have a global reach,” concludes Alistair. “For example, there is a big contingency of embedded electronics talent in Europe which we can tap into.

“Also, I think one of the biggest things that we do is to drive customer experience. We offer candidates a really good quality service, so we get a lot of referrals. Companies value the work that we do to secure their candidates, we make it our business to continue to help them find candidates for the gaps in their workforce.”