Spending Review: an engineering perspective

Keith Lewis, Chief Operating Officer, Matchtech

Last week Chancellor George Osborne set out the Government’s financial objectives for the year ahead in a combined Autumn Statement and Spending Review. For those working in the engineering industry, there were plenty of highlights including:

• Investment in our long term infrastructure with a £12 billion spend on capital investments

• A 50% increase in transport capital spending

• Commitment to supporting our aerospace and automotive industries

• Double the support for low-carbon electricity and renewables

With the long-term investment in infrastructure, the Chancellor stated that key projects could move forward such as the construction of HS2 and the electrification of the Trans-Pennine, Midland Main Line and Great Western lines.

For engineers working in the infrastructure, energy, automotive and aerospace sectors, the news is particularly pleasing. Not only does the increased spend suggest job security for those engineers currently working in these sectors, but it also infers an increase in new career opportunities to help deliver on these investments.

However, the news is not without worry for some. The other side of the coin is the impact on employers within these sectors who face the challenge of finding talent to deliver on these new investments at a time when there is already a vast skills shortage.

In his speech, the Chancellor reiterated the UK’s commitment to skills and outlined more details of a new apprenticeship levy which will fund three million apprenticeships. Putting aside the debate about how this funding will work in practice, encouraging more young people into apprenticeships to gain a craft is undeniably a good thing. However, it is clearly a strategy for the long term and it will take time for us to see the effect it will have on resolving the skills shortage.

To find the candidates they need now employers must take an open-minded approach to their recruitment strategy so they can tap into every available resource. A logical solution is to consider hiring candidates from other engineering sectors who are likely to possess many transferable skills. For example, oil and gas engineers who have suffered job losses following the drop in oil prices could transfer into the defence industry.

Fortunately, engineers are generally open-minded and willing to transfer to alternative sectors, as our Confidence Index survey found – 59% of the 3,500 engineers we surveyed said they would consider transferring to a different engineering industry. This willingness to move widens the pool of talent significantly.

So whilst the existing problems of the skills shortage persist, overall it seems there is plenty to feel positive about with the spending review announcement. I’m sure we can all stand to benefit from an improved and sustainable infrastructure whether on a local scale with the creation of the ‘permanent pothole fund’ or on a national scale with an enhanced travel network. As ever, only time will tell if the plans fulfil their potential and come to fruition.

If you’d like to discuss where you can find the engineering talent you need please contact info@matchtech.com or if you are a candidate considering a change in industry, please click here to view our latest jobs.

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