Image 2021 06 04 T11 31 21
Image 2021 06 04 T11 31 21

Has the Pandemic created a Perfect Storm for hiring Engineers?

James Campbell

​If anyone had asked me two years ago what I thought the biggest threat to recruitment was within the Engineering Sector, I would have said Brexit…. how wrong I was. The Pandemic has thrown the plans of every business to the wind and left the hiring market in a position not seen before. Pre-pandemic, we were already seeing signs of limited candidate availability, with too few candidates for the number of vacancies. However, things have been worsened by the current situation, with a perfect storm of diminished candidate volumes and a sharp increase in the number vacancies.

What does this mean to businesses currently trying to hire?

Within the Maintenance and Service market, which is arguably the busiest within the Engineering sector currently, it has become increasingly difficult to find skilled candidates for the roles coming onto the market. At the start of the year, this certainly wasn’t the case. We saw a huge surge of candidates coming onto the market due to a combination of factors, mainly redundancies due to the pandemic. We also saw people looking to move due to feeling insecure in their current role due to the same reason. However, this influx has been short lived, with the best candidates being snapped up very quickly.

To put this into context, just across the first half of 2021, we have seen a 75% reduction in the number of candidates coming onto the market. Whilst simultaneously, we've seen a 100% increase in the number of live roles since restrictions have eased and businesses feel more confident in the market. Although the struggle of finding the right candidates doesn’t end there, according to a recent study by the Open University, 51% of Vacancies remained unfilled!

Every business has had to adapt when it comes to interviewing over the course of the pandemic, with the majority of businesses either choosing to wait to recruit or opting for web based interview software like Microsoft Teams. However, a big issue has been how to train and induct new recruits whilst observing social distancing. Within Maintenance, this hasn’t been as big of an issue, as new recruits are joining established teams and have the support of their new colleagues. Within Service, it is far more tricky. Most Service positions are home based currently, making the task of onboarding and training new Engineers much more challenging. This has had a knock on effect on what most Service Managers are now looking for when it comes to new recruits.

Pre-pandemic, with the ability to bring new Engineers in for training, most hiring managers would look at a broad spectrum of candidates. Now, with the inability to train as effectively due to social distancing, we have seen most Hiring Managers look for candidates from their industry. This, in an already candidate short market, compounds the situation. We are already seeing roles that were fillable 18 months ago go unfilled due to restrictive recruitment policies.

What is the solution?​

There isn’t a 'one size fits all' solution to this issue, as every business and industry sector have their own challenges on top of this. However, there are 3 key things to consider when looking to hire:

Firstly, do you know how competitive your industry is and the availability of candidates with the skill sets you require? Depending on how niche your market is, you may need to consider looking at candidates from outside your industry and who have the transferable skills that can be adapted and trained to suit your requirements. What training and support can be provided? If classroom based training isn’t an option, can new recruits be buddied up with an existing team member to be shown the ropes? Can video based training be used? It's unlikely this is going to be a complete substitute for hands on training, but we have seen a number of businesses adopt this as a strategy to complete product training upon induction. Would a more junior hire, that can be trained and moulded, be a better option?

Secondly, is your package competitive? The main driver of a candidate driven market is that the best candidates can pick and choose who they want to work for. Just like the current situation with the housing market, we are already seeing a number of our clients increasing salaries on roles to try and attract the best talent. However, we also know this is not an option for all. Instead, consider the package as a whole. Following our recent candidate survey on what was important to candidates when looking for a new position, work life balance was a key factor, especially for Service Engineers. This has now been magnified with the events of the last year with many of us taking stock of what we consider a priority. How many nights will the Engineers be required to stay away? Are they compensated for hours worked outside their core hours? Are their diaries managed so that travel is cut to a minimum?

Finally, how are you positioning yourself in the market? Job security has always been of high importance to candidates, even more so now with so many established firms unexpectedly going to the wall. Understandably, candidates are cautious when looking to join a new business. Think about how you can reassure candidates that they are joining a stable business. What progression can be offered in the future? How did your business deal with lockdown? What is driving your current need to recruit? Any business with a full order or service book is going to be a far more attractive offer to any prospective candidate, but are you conveying that message in the market?

The good news is that we are starting to see a steady increase in candidate traffic since the easing of restrictions and, with the role out of more vaccines, those candidates that were nervous about attending interviews or changing roles are starting to emerge. As long as this upward trend continues, it will make the task of attracting the best talent far easier for all.

James Campbell

If you are a company looking for an Engineer to join your business, or a candidate looking for a new opportunity, then please get in touch with James Campbell:

07827 256 652

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