The idiosyncratic nature of the engineering labour market is displayed acutely this week.
Reporting its latest figures on the state of the industry, the Engineering Employers’ Federation chronicles the effects of worsening business conditions on employment levels across the sector. Engineering employment is now at best stable but is probably contracting – the EEF’s best guess is that employment levels are down 13,000 in three months.
Good news for skill shortages you would think. But there is little evidence that falling employment levels are doing anything to take the heat out of recruitment problems. In buoyant areas, such as aerospace and electronics, skill shortages are far from being solved.
For the engineering industry the solutions lie in long term strategies. A steady supply of talented young people coming in via university degrees, modern apprenticeships and other training schemes is vital to the future competitiveness of the industry.
One of the best measures of progress will be the success of recruiting young people into modern apprentices this summer.
Last year the industry failed to fill all the places on offer, and this year there are more practical measures in place to solve the problem. If these fail to woo the numbers more drastic action will be needed to ensure skill shortages do not worsen.