Firms struggling to recruit senior staff despite upturn

Although the gap between manufacturing and service recruitment activity is narrowing, senior positions are becoming harder to fill.

A resurgence in manufacturing job prospects is on the horizon, as companies anticipate an upturn in orders, according to a recent survey. But although the gap between manufacturing and service recruitment activity is narrowing, senior positions are becoming harder to fill.

These are the findings of the latest quarterly Recruitment Confidence Index, produced by Cranfield School of Management and recruitment consultant TMP Worldwide, based on responses from managers at 479 UK firms.

Nearly half the companies surveyed expected to increase their number of employees in the next six months, while 54% anticipated increased demand for their main product. This is the first time manufacturers have predicted an increase in their workforces since the index was launched last year.

Jos van Ommeren, a Cranfield School of Management researcher, said: ‘Although it may be a temporary phenomenon, it signals that manufacturers are hiring more employees to meet demand and not simply increasing productivity.’

Over eight out of 10 manufacturers, however, reported difficulties in filling vacancies at managerial/professional level, up from 64% last quarter. Graduate recruitment is also becoming more difficult, with 36% of organisations expecting recruitment difficulties at this level in the next six months.

The percentage of manufacturers reporting no recruitment difficulties halved from 36% to 18%, while the number reporting difficulties filling more than 30% of their vacancies was up from 21% to 26%.

Overall, the more senior the position, the more difficulty was expected in recruiting, with over six out of 10 companies anticipating problems at senior manager level.

A breakdown by job function predicts a high level of employment growth in engineering, with 27% of those surveyed predicting an increase, up from 24% in June.

Strongest growth is anticipated in sales, production and computing/IT. Recruitment difficulties are expected to be most acute in engineering, computing/IT and sales.

The average female engineer earns less than her male counterpart and tends to be six years younger, according to the Remuneration Economics 2000 salary survey of engineers.

There had been a small rise in the number of women in engineering, up from 4.5% in 1998 to 6.3% in the year to July 2000. Professional engineers’ average earnings were up 5.1% over the same period.